• Nicole Parkes

Critique in the UK. How to give constructive criticism without being an absolute pr*ck

Updated: Oct 19

If you keep up to date with what's going on in the Black creative and media industry, you may have heard about the first ever and biggest gala to date in the UK; Guap Magazines 'Guap Gala'. With nominees who have created enormous waves and contributed to the media industry over the past years, such as Jamal Edwards, ItsjustNife, Toni Blaze to name a few, it was a night focused on celebrating, awarding, uplifting, and putting the spotlight on talent both in front, and behind the scenes.


Credit: Guap Magazine

Originally set to take place on the 14th of September but postponed due to the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Gala took place in a stunning venue known famously as the Natural History Museum on Friday 7th October. Perfect timing for such a grand event celebrating underrepresented creatives, as the new date happened to be during Black History Month in the UK.


From the amazing performances and never ending Prosecco refills, to the red carpet photos and interviews, and the decor of the museum...they even had slippers for the ladies to switch into at the end of the night! The night was well put together and the attention to detail was applauding.


Following online slander from the lack of efforts and creativity in the outfits of attendees at the GRM Gala that took place on August 1st, Guap Gala's founders announced that there would be a strict dress code following the theme of the gala, which was Fairytales & Folkore. This put well needed pressure on attendees, and notable efforts from guests were made, which contributed to the success of the night.


Credit: Antony Jones

Often, we (us people who live in the UK) will complain that there is never a reason to dress up and show out, or that we never have any events that allow us to really show how we interpret themes within our fashion. This, gave us a chance to show out and be as extra as we possibly could.


Now, following an event as such, where there is a lot of focus on outfits of guests....think Met Gala, Beyonces Birthday, Award shows in general, and with this comes the expected online critique from the public eye. All of a sudden everyone and their mother gains an opinion on the outfits of people gracing the red carpet whether you want to be seen or not.


But, critique is what makes fashion, FASHION. Whether it is good or bad, you have successfully worn your outfit, if it has gained the opinion from another. Fashion is SUPPOSED to make people talk, fashion is not always going to be loved by everyone, and I see it more as an interpretation or story rather than taking in the outfit for what I see in front of me. When you attend these events, you have to expect unwarranted advice and opinions from anyone; whether it be a blogpost, instagram comment or hot take from some random babe on twitter.


HOWEVER, is there a fine line between constructive criticism, and just being straight up negative and mean? Is it possible to give critique without being a pr*ck or seen as the bad guy?


Nobody is saying you cannot give your input, in fact commentary on these events can be beneficial to the media coverage and credentials for such events, which in my eyes is a win for events run by Black institutions. What I'm trying to say is there are ways of giving your opinion without putting someone down or making someone feel like sh*t.


There's two types of criticism, destructive and constructive. Both forms of feedback highlight our mistakes, flaws, or potential improvements and can have an impact on how someone views themselves. I want you to think for a second.


Which type of criticism are you most likely going to take well and digest?


A) Constructive criticism that uplifts, offers you a suggestion, and can provide a possible solution for you to improve and think about for the next time?


or


B) Destructive criticism that is hurtful, offensive, derogatory and mocking our failure?


Emma Spedding from the WHO WHAT WEAR article How I Learned to Give Honest Style Advice and Not Feel Like a Mean Girl says 'When offering an opinion, it's best to focus on fit, practicality and whether it's a good investment rather than thinking if it's something you would wear yourself. "Give honest feedback with facts rather than personal preferences."


And where you do not understand the chosen outfit, ask the wearer what the story or inspiration behind the outfit is, and then give your take based on this.


To answer my previous question, Is it possible to give critique without being a pr*ck or seen. as the bad guy? Yes. Yes it is. And I think that if people took more time into understanding delivery and the power of their words, people and not just in the UK but everyone, would be more open to critique instead of taking offence to it. It's seemingly a common thing that people online will give opinions that attack others, rather than opinions that can elevate them.


I used to be the type of person where if my sister asked me 'Nic, do you like this' I'd be brutally honest and most likely respond with an offensive opinion like 'That's absolutely ugly' followed by the most mocking comparison (Jamaicans tend to do this without realising sometimes....). But after realising that all this ever done was degrade and offend, and instead of being any help it was fuelling arguments, or lowering self esteem, I became more aware and accountable for the opinions I give and how I deliver them. Now, i'll try harder to respond more in a way that offers help and a way to improve, rather than simply to offend. For example:


Person: "Nic, what do you think of this dress?"


Me: "If i'm honest with you, I'm not an entire fan. I think if you were to find something that *compliments said feature* by *give opinion on what could work better* instead of *doing what you think was wrong*, it would look so much better. on you"


With a response like this, it's more constructive than destructive and the person will be more susceptible to your opinion and advice. So, next time you want to give your opinion online, before you press TWEET or SEND, think to yourself....


Is this constructive criticism, or am I just being an absolute pr*ck.


Find out more about my personal experience at the Guap Gala here:


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