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U.S. Navy Picks Active-Duty Drag Queen for Face of New Recruitment Program

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Source: @harpy_daniels/Instagram, Mega

May 3 2023, Published 2:00 p.m. ET

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The United State Navy turned to an unlikely source in an attempt to revamp its military recruitment strategy. An active-duty drag queen was selected as the new face of the branch as they attempted to increase falling recruitment numbers, RadarOnline.com has learned.

Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who identifies as non-binary and uses the stage name Harpy Daniels became the Navy's new "digital ambassador." Kelley joined five other active-duty personnel for the pilot program, which ran from October to March.

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Source: mega

Last November, Kelley revealed that they first began performing drag in the military to be an "advocate" for those who "were oppressed for years in the service."

"This has been an unbelievable experience since I've joined the Navy," Kelley wrote on Instagram. "From joining to 2016 and being able to share my drag experience on my off time with my fellow sailors has been a blessing."

"This experience has brought me so much strength, courage and ambition to continue being an advocate and representation of queer sailors!" Kelley added.

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Source: @harpy_daniels/Instagram
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In the wake of what a spokesman for the military branch told Fox News was "the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force," the Navy enacted the digital ambassador program to "explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates."

While stating that the program's future was being evaluated, the rep confirmed that "the Navy did not compensate YN2 Kelley or any others for being Navy Digital Ambassadors."

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Source: @harpy_daniels/Instagram
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In a twist of fate, the program allowed Kelley to bring their journey with drag and the military full circle. Kelley shared that before joining the military, they performed drag routines for service members.

"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 Carl Herzog of the USS Constitution Museum.

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

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Source: mega
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Being able to show up as one's authentic self — and backed by the support of the Navy — Kelley shared that they were able to save someone's life with their art.

"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," Kelley recalled. "They personally thanked me and said they forgot what life was like for a moment."

Kelley added that the anecdote was a reminder of the "struggle we all deal with during deployments."

The program was aimed at increasing its member count to 347,000, a jump from the 341,736 members who served for the 2023 fiscal year.

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