US Navy enlists drag queen influencer to attract 'wide range' of troops amid recruitment drop

Kelley began perfoming on ships in 2017 when shipmates decided to do a "lip syncing" competition.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
The United States Navy has enlisted a "drag queen influencer" in an attempt to appeal to a "wider range" of potential troops as recruitment continues to drop throughout all branches of the US military.

The drag queen, Harpy Daniels, who is an active-duty sailor named Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, announced in November that the US Navy asked him to become the first "Navy Digital Ambassador" whose goals are "to attract the most talented and diverse workforce" to the military branch, according to the Daily Caller.

In his first post as a "Navy influencer" Harpy Daniels took his followers on a vast journey through his time in the military that went from performing on deck for his shipmates in 2018 to becoming a pillar of the community by advocating for people who have been "oppressed for years in the service," the outlet reports.

Harpy Daniels was one of five sailors selected in October 2022 to participate in the program which ended in April 2023, and now the Navy is weighing options on whether to keep it running or disband it entirely.

A Navy Spokesman told the Daily Caller that the Digital Ambassador Initiative was "designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates."

"The Navy did not compensate YN2 Kelley or any others for being Navy Digital Ambassadors," the spokesperson said. Five active duty personnel participated, and no promotional or recruiting materials exist.

During an interview titled "Drag in the Navy: An interview with Harpy Daniels", Kelley, who identifies as non-binary, told Carl Herzog of the USS Constitution Museum that he performed in drag well before joining the military.

Kelley began performing on ships in 2017 when shipmates decided to do a "lip syncing" competition while deployed on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and "continues to slay in performances that boost morale and show support for LGBTQ+ service members," Herzog said in the interview.

Kelley said he became the victim of harassment from "conservative and Christian extremists” after he was asked to perform at a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) event at Langley Joint Air Force Base in the summer of 2022.

"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. It shows representation, and that is truly needed for a culture and organization that has shunned us for so long,” he told Herzog.

On Kelley's Instagram account, the active-duty sailor posts content that includes his daily life as a drag queen and how he found acceptance in the military, with the hopes that "oppressed" people will be able to relate to his content.

While recruitment has drastically fallen throughout the years with the largest decrease seen in 2022, Navy officials say that recruitment is expected to increase in 2023 but will most likely not reach their targeted goal.

To reach those goals, the United States Navy says that it will continue working towards its goal of "attracting the most talented and diverse workforce" by evaluating its "compensation package and admission requirements, and how it reaches potential recruits through advertising and career events."

The United States Military has been heavily scrutinized in recent years with critics calling it "woke" as the Biden administration has focused on gender, diversity, and inclusion rather than defeating political enemies and defending America's homeland.

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