Zoe Tay: I was too embarrassed to ask for help

Actress opens up about past vision problems

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Photos: Goh Li Xin, Zoe Tay/Instagram
Video: Tay Yixuan, Kimberly Tay

Zoe Tay, 48, may require visual aids for her farsightedness now, but the Queen of Caldecott Hill has no fear of being reminded of her age. “I’ve never kept that a secret — everyone knows how old I am!” she said.

But back when she started suffering from presbyopia three or four years ago, she found it hard to accept it and couldn’t bring herself to seek help.

“When we dined out at restaurants, the lighting was dim and I couldn’t read the menus clearly,” she said. “But I was too embarrassed to ask the people seated next to me (to read the menus to me), so in the end I called the waiter over to list out the daily specials!”

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The actress is now the ambassador for 1-Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal contact lenses, intended for farsighted folks above 40. “Presbyopia is a problem everyone will encounter sooner or later, so no one has to feel uncomfortable discussing it,” she said.

Zoe described how she had to start reading her screenplays at arm’s length and squinting at her smartphone screen; she later requested screenplays printed in a larger font size and adjusted the text size on her phone.

“One actor colleague has severe presbyopia and once he slammed his screenplay on the floor before he could read what was printed on it,” she recounted, though she declined to say who it was. “At that time I laughed at him and suggested he place his screenplay in the next room, but I hadn’t expected it would be my turn someday.”


Bad habits

After consulting an optometrist, Zoe got fitted this year with the contact lenses she’s endorsing. But this is the first time she’s wearing them again after 30 years — she had gone for Lasik soon after her acting debut, and the person who’d encouraged her to was former actor Xie Shao Guang.

“Shao Guang noticed that when we read our lines, I wasn’t looking at him in the eye,” Zoe said. “I was worried this would affect my career — eyes are vital to an actor — so I went for the operation.”

She developed shortsightedness in secondary school when she got into the habit of reading while lying down. And now she’s catching her own son reading while lying on his belly — 8-year-old Ashton was recently diagnosed with myopia.

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