The United States Navy has turned to a drag performer in its efforts to reach younger recruits on digital platforms and social media.
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, whose stage name is Harpy Daniels, announced on TikTok in November that he would be the Navy’s first ‘digital ambassador,’ highlighting his journey from performing on board beginning in 2018 and growing to become an ‘advocate’ for those who ‘were oppressed for years in the service.’
Kelley, who identifies as non-binary, was one of just five active sailors to participate as ‘digital ambassadors’ for the Navy in its ‘efforts to reach a wide range of potential candidates,’ a spokesperson told Daily Caller.
None of the digital ambassadors were paid, the spokesperson said, and no promotional or recruiting materials with the ambassadors exist.
The campaign is reminiscent of Bud Light’s partnership with trans-star Dylan Mulvaney which led to an immediate backlash, cost billions and caused the brand’s sales to plummet.
The Navy’s digital ambassador program has now ended, running from October 2022 through March 2023, and officials are now working to assess its effectiveness.
But authorities say the Navy is still expected to fall 8,000 short of its recruitment goals for the year.
Kelley said he began dressing in drag and performing in shows years before he joined the Navy, drawing on inspiration from the queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race — which he started watching at the age of 16.
He then first started performing on ships after a sanctioned MWR (Morale. Welfare and Recreation) lip-syncing contest in 2017, while deployed on the USS Ronald Reagan, and became a regular in the competitions, according to NBC News.
The officer insists he never experienced harassment in the Navy, but when he was scheduled to perform at a diversity, equity and inclusion event at Langley Joint Air Force Base in the summer of 2022, it ’caused an uproar to many conservatives and Christian extremists.’
‘I’m an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and being able to do drag is not just for me, but a tribute to many service members who were kicked out, harassed, bullied or worse for being openly gay during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ he told the USS Constitution Museum in an interview, referencing the Bush-era policy that discouraged military members from disclosing their sexual orientation.
‘It shows representation, and that is truly needed for a culture and organization that has shunned us for so long.’
In announcing that he would be a digital ambassador for the Navy, Kelley wrote that his experiences in the Navy have ‘brought me so much strength, courage and ambition to continue being an advocate and [representative] of queer sailors.’
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