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Who is Judge Dalal Elsheikh on Hot Wheels™: Ultimate Challenge?
The groundbreaking leader in real automotive design, Dalal Elsheikh, is bringing her brilliance to Hot Wheels™: Ultimate Challenge.
The new hit NBC series Hot Wheels™: Ultimate Challenge is getting the motors of car enthusiasts revving and running, and that's not all because of the toys. Hot Wheels™ collectible cars obviously play a big part in the show, but judge Dalal Elsheikh grounds everything in real automotive experience.
The series has a rotating roster of celebrity guest judges, but Elsheikh is always going to be present. Each week, she will help decide which Hot Wheels™ superfans will see their designs come to life. Elsheikh is a designer of real cars for the Ford Motor Company, so she’s perfect for the show. She’s also a big fan of Hot Wheels™ and that should come as a surprise to no one.
As she said in a recent interview with Nerds of Color, “I love the brand. I love the toy and everything they have done with it.” The toys have been with the Sudanese American star for some time.
“I grew up playing with Hot Wheels like a lot of kids did,” Elsheikh said in the same interview. “But I think what’s really unique about my upbringing, even though I was born and raised in New Jersey, I spent the first like four or five years of my life in Sudan. So I came back to the US having completed kindergarten in Sudan… I was the outlier. But when it came to playing with Hot Wheels or bringing the toys in, that’s a common language that all children understand.”
She brings much-needed representation to the series, but she brings the same to an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Though, as she said, there is a “double-edge sword to being the only Black woman in design” that she’s seen.
“Obviously, there are other Black women at Ford that I’ve met, but I haven’t met another one in design,” she said. “I’m sure they’re out there, but it’s so few and far between. The one thing about being one of the few ones is that people always want to uplift you and they uphold you and want to ask you questions and ask you to represent the company in some way.”
She continued: “I’ll get asked to be part of a panel or to speak on certain topics or speak to future designers, which I love doing, but it’s really unfortunate that I feel like sometimes I am the ‘go-to’ because I’m the only one who looks the way I do.”
“You know, we’re just real people,” she added.
Real people who speak the universal language of car design, to be sure. What is Elsheikh looking for in a design? She takes the name of the toy seriously, because she wants them hot, hot, hot.
“I’m talking flames,” she said. “Vibrant colors, exposed engines, you name it!”
There’s one particular design that Elsheikh remembers, and fans of the show can look forward to it coming up in a few weeks.
“We had this one build that came halfway through the season that was absolutely one of my favorites — if not my favorite,” she said. “It was just so bright, so vibrant, and so full of life.”
For anyone who is interested in doing what Elsheikh does, her advice comes down to drawing, and how aspiring designers should never stop never stopping.
“I would say even if you feel like you’re not good at drawing, keep doing it. You have to keep sketching,” she said, adding: “You can’t be precious or a perfectionist about it. You have to just keep drawing all the time.”