Whether you are in a dream house or under the hood of a car. It is no secret that Mattel has been on its’ A-game as of recent. With the release of their latest box office hit ‘Barbie’ taking over theaters across the country, it would be remiss to not acknowledge the impact of another famous toy, Hot Wheels! The history of this novelty item has had a generous yet impactful amount of raucous for car enthusiasts for over 50 years. 

Mattel has switched gears to another collectible focused on making a watchlist worthy show that has viewers and contestants accelerating their wildest dreams into a reality. 

‘Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge’ is a competition driven TV show that gives sixteen contestants an opportunity to transform cars from their past into life-sized Hot Wheel models! In hopes of winning a cash prize and seeing their creation made into a Hot Wheels die-cast toy, available for purchase. 

HOT WHEELS: ULTIMATE CHALLENGE — Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Dalal Elsheikh, Hertrech Eugene Jr., Jadejha Edwards, Terry Crews, Rutledge Wood — (Photo by: James Stack/NBC)

Ford Motor designer, Dalal Elsheikh, serves as a judge alongside social media influencer Hertrech Eugene Jr. and Rutledge Wood (Floor Is Lava) as the host. 

Elsheik’s expertise and attention to detail makes her a quintessential asset, to a show where car design is pushed to the forefront. Elsheikh designs for one of the most popular car brands in America and is a Hot Wheels brand ambassador. Making her the perfect candidate to lend her expert opinion on a show that challenges creativity. 

As one of the judges of a nationally broadcasted television show it’s not lost on her that she is representing a demographic of women who are Black, educated leaders of their community. Additionally, her origin story of being a first born Sudanese American paints a brazen picture for women and girls of color to always dream big and achieve bigger. 

This New Jersey native is a multidisciplinary designer with a futuristic and unconventional mentality that has led her to where she is today and she shows no signs of easing up. 

Excitedly, The Reel Effect caught up with Elsheikh to hear her spill what we can expect for the upcoming season finale. She also discusses working in a male dominated field and what she hopes viewers can take away from the show.

HOT WHEELS: ULTIMATE CHALLENGE — Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Dalal Elsheikh, Terry Crews — (Photo by: James Stack/NBC)

The Reel Effect: We’re nearing the end of the show where we find out, out of the 8 winners, who will win $50,000. Along with a chance to have their car as an official Hot Wheels die-cast car. What do fans have to look forward to as the show nears the finale? 

Dalal Elsheikh: The fans can look forward to an absolutely insane two-part finale with three very different, but equally iconic cars with huge fan bases. But those three cars are a surprise for now, as are the three super fans who will re-imagine them! The competition is tense, and our celebrity guest judge is a major automotive enthusiast with one of the most famous collections in the world! So he’ll be hard to impress! 

TRE: Each contestant has a story or memory of a car they once had, that brought them joy in some way. Is there a car that brings back a nostalgic moment for you and what made it so special? 

DE: Growing up I had a major love of muscle cars (and still do!). I distinctly remember wanting a Ford Mustang or a Pontiac GTO when I got my license, and my parents rejected that ask immediately. They were not going to put their 17-year-old daughter behind the wheel of an 8-cylinder machine. While I didn’t get to drive a powerful car in my teens. I’ve been lucky enough to get behind the wheel of some really cool muscle cars later on in my life, fulfilling that dream. Seeing Jim and Jadejha’s Charger and Camaro brought me back to those memories of youth, freedom, and the thirst for the open road. 

TRE: Professionally you’re breaking down barriers. For women and girls of color, What’s the advice that you wish you had gotten when you started working in a male dominated field? 

DE: I wish someone had told me how lonely it would feel in the beginning and that I’m not the only one that feels that way. I wish I knew how willing those around me were to connect and provide guidance. When you’re just starting out, imposter syndrome will tell you that you need to figure everything out on your own and asking for help was a sign of weakness, but it’s not. It’s a gesture that you’re willing to accept direction and assistance from your community and foster a bond. Some of the most inspiring women I’ve had the pleasure of working with have always made themselves available to students and young professionals. I hope I can do the same throughout my career. Reach out, ask for help, and admit when you don’t know something, but remember you’re as deserving as anyone else to be there. 

TRE: The core of the show is built upon imagination and creating one’s wildest Hot Wheel dreams. As a host on the show, did you see this opportunity on your vision board? What ultimately made you say yes? 

DE: If you told me just a year ago that I would be judging Hot Wheels on national television, I’d tell you you were nuts! It’s been an absolute dream to work on this show with some of the most talented people in the industry. I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with Hot Wheels in the past and get to know some of their talented designers. Which made saying yes to this opportunity very easy. When you have such a cool idea and amazing people behind it, there’s just no reason to say no. 

TRE: What’s the number one thing you want viewers to take away when watching a show like this?

DE: I hope viewers see a peak behind the automotive curtain and feel like an empowered part of the car enthusiast club! All of us on the show have a deep love of cars and want to share that with everyone watching. It’s not about being a gear head, having an expensive collection, or knowing how to work on cars. It’s about imagination and knowing that anything you set your mind to is possible. One of my favorite parts of the show is watching Super Fans who aren’t necessarily car-savvy, feel empowered to get their hands dirty and work on their build. 

TRE: Since they’re both under the Mattel umbrella: Barbie or Hot Wheels?

DE: How dare you. BarbWheels. 

Catch the ‘Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge’ two-part season finale on Tuesdays at 10PM ET/PT on NBC and the next day on Peacock.

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Devon Townsend

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