Who Is Joshua Kelley? US Navy Appointed Drag Queen Who Goes by the Stage Name Harpy Daniels as Its New Digital Ambassador to Boost Recruitment

Kelley has admitted to Carl Herzog of the USS Constitution Museum that they started dressing as drag queens and appearing in performances before joining the Navy.

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The US Navy has invited an active-duty drag queen to become its 'Digital Ambassador' in a bid to reach younger recruits on digital platforms and social media. Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelly, whose stage name is Harpy Daniels and who identifies herself as non-binary, was chosen as the first of five Navy Digital Ambassadors.

The test project to choose the Digital Ambassador ran from October to March. Kelly announced their journey on Instagram and TikTok, describing how they started out performing on board and how they eventually became an "advocate" for those who "were oppressed for years in the service."

Next Dylan Mulvaney?

Joshua Kelly Harpy Daniels
Joshua Kelley and their alter ego Harpy Daniels Instagram

Kelley was one of the only five active sailors who took part in the Navy's "efforts to reach a wide range of potential candidates" as "digital ambassadors," a spokesperson told Daily Caller.

"From joining to 2016 and being able to share my drag experience on my off time with my fellow sailors has been a blessing," Kelley wrote on Instagram in November when announcing their appointment as a digital ambassador to their more than 8,000 followers.

"Thank you to the Navy for giving me this opportunity! I don't speak for the Navy but simply sharing my experience in the Navy! Hooyah, and let's go Slay!" they added.

The "Digital Ambassador" program, in which Kelley participated, was "designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates" and ran from October to March, as the Navy battles "the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force," a Navy spokesperson told Fox News.

The spokesperson said that the service branch is assessing what form the program—which included five active-duty personnel—will take in the future.

Kelley has admitted to Carl Herzog of the USS Constitution Museum that they started dressing as drag queens and appearing in performances before joining the Navy.

They also participated in lip sync competitions as Harpy in 2017 and 2018 while deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Joshua Kelly
Joshua Kelley Instagram

"I started performing in drag in 2013. Drag had no influence with me joining. It was the Navy I feared that would've influenced me to stop doing drag," Kelley told Herzog.

"For myself, drag has been a passion, an art, and a way to express myself. ... Ship life is difficult. Every day fades into one, and high stress and intensity can bring low morale and can cause suicide and bad behavior," Kelley said.

According to Kelly, their appearance on the Ronald Regan helped save someone's life. "This person was gay and felt lost and alone, ready to jump ship. But after getting to view my performance, they felt empowered to be themselves and see that our struggles and low morale are temporary," the Yeoman 2nd Class said.

Joshua Kelly as Harpy Daniels
Joshua Kelleyas Harpy Daniels Instagram

"They personally thanked me and said they forgot what life was like for a moment. That's a struggle we all deal with during deployments and we all have our reasons to lose ourselves," they said.

Daring Decision

According to the Navy Times, the ambassador program was started as the Navy attempted to increase its size from the current 341,736 serving in fiscal year 2023 to 347,000 members in 2024.

Joshua Kelly as Harpy Daniels
Joshua Kelley as Harpy Daniels Instagram

According to the most recent diversity, equality, and inclusion policy revisions published by the Daily Caller, it committed to hiring and retaining staff by establishing an inclusive culture and making sure people feel "included and connected to mission and leaders at all levels."

However, the spokesperson said that none of the digital ambassadors were paid, and there are no recruiting or promotional materials featuring the ambassadors.

The campaign is reminiscent of Bud Light's controversial collaboration with transgender actor Dylan Mulvaney, which cost billions of dollars and resulted in a sharp decline in the brand's sales.

The Navy's digital ambassador program, which ran from October 2022 to March 2023, is now over, and officials are analyzing its success.

Joshua Kelly as Harpy Daniels
Joshua Kelley as Harpy Daniels Twitter

However, according to the authorities, the Navy will still fall 8,000 short of its annual recruitment targets.

Lt. Ian Clark and PO 3rd Class Kyle Atkinson stated in a January article for the USNI journal that "an effort is, in fact, being made to connect recruiting to the interests and concerns of Gen Z."

However, only 2 percent of young people meet the requirements to join the Navy and are willing to serve, a representative of the advertising firm VMLY&R told USNI News. This is despite the Navy's plans to increase its size to 347,000 officers and enlisted sailors in 2024, up from the 341,736 sailors it currently has.

This article was first published on May 3, 2023