The United States Navy has learned nothing from the backlash of Budweiser breaking with its brand and partnering with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney. As U.S. military recruitment numbers plummet, the Navy decided to have an active duty sailor that is also a drag queen head a pilot “digital ambassador” program.
The theory was that the drag queen sailor would target a wider array of potential recruits utilizing more platforms such as Instagram, a spokesperson told the Daily Caller New Foundation (DCNF).
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, stage name Harpy Daniels, announced the Navy invited him to become the first “Navy Digital Ambassador” in a November 2022 social media post, highlighting his journey from performing on deck in 2018 to becoming a “leader” and “advocate” of people who “were oppressed for years in the service.” The Digital Ambassador initiative in which Kelley participated ran from October 2022 to March 2023 and was “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates,” the Navy spokesperson said.
Kelley identifies as non-binary and says he began dressing in drag and performing in shows long before joining the Navy, according to an interview conducted with Carl Herzog of the USS Constitution Museum in August.
He first started performing on ships after a sanctioned MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) lip syncing competition in 2017 while deployed on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, Herzog wrote. Kelley “continues to slay in performances that boost morale and show support for LGBTQ+ service members.”
“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 the USS Constitution Museum.
Kelley frequently posts videos of his performances on his Instagram and TikTok accounts, writing about how he found acceptance in the Navy and highlighting his shows.
The Navy committed to recruit and retain soldiers through fostering an inclusive culture and ensuring personnel feel “included and connected to mission and leaders at all levels,” according to the latest DEI policy updates. A 2020 pamphlet on Inclusion and Diversity goals included the objective to develop “strategies using data to understand and eliminate barriers and ensure outreach to all segments of society.”