Recruitment Crisis, Explained: US Navy Names Drag Queen as 'Digital Ambassador'

The Navy's 'nonbinary' drag queen ‘digital ambassador' / via
May 3, 2023

The Navy promoted a "nonbinary" drag queen to be a "digital ambassador" in an effort to attract younger Americans amid recruitment shortages in the military. 

Joshua Kelley, an active sailor, announced on TikTok in November that the Navy invited him to be its first "digital ambassador." Kelley uses the stage name Harpy Daniels and has performed on Navy ships since 2018, according to the Daily Mail. He claims to be an "advocate" for people who "were oppressed for years in the service."

The program for digital ambassadors ran from October 2022 to March 2023 and was designed to "explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates," a Navy spokesperson told Fox News. No one in the program was paid. 

The military's embrace of a drag queen comes as it struggles to meet recruitment goals. The Navy is projected to fall 8,000 short of its recruitment goal this year, and the Army is expected to miss its goal again after only filling 45,000 slots out of its goal of 60,000 last year. 

Kelley is a regular performer on U.S. military ships, the Daily Mail reported: 

He ... 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.

Published under: Navy