The US Navy has turned to a drag performer to reach out to younger recruits on digital platforms and social media.
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, whose stage name is Harpy Daniels, announced on TikTok in November that he would become the Navy’s first “digital ambassador.” who were “repressed in the service for years.”
Kelley, who identifies as nonbinary, was one of only five active sailors to participate as “digital ambassadors” for the Navy in its “efforts to reach a broad range of potential candidates,” a spokesperson told Daily caller.
None of the digital ambassadors were paid, the spokesperson said, and no promotional or recruiting materials featuring the ambassadors exist.
The campaign is reminiscent of Bud Light’s partnership with trans star Dylan Mulvaney, which immediately sparked backlash, cost billions and plummeted the brand’s sales.
The Navy’s digital ambassador program, which runs from October 2022 through March 2023, has now ended and officials are now reviewing its effectiveness.
But authorities say the Navy is still expected to fall 8,000 short of recruitment targets for the year.
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, whose stage name is Harpy Daniels, announced on TikTok in November that he would become the Navy’s first “digital ambassador”
He said his experience in the Navy “has given me so much strength, courage and ambition to continue to be an advocate and (representative) of queer sailors”
Kelley said he started dressing in drag and performing in shows years before joining the Navy, taking inspiration from the queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race — which he started watching at age 16.
He then first began performing on ships after a sanctioned MWR (Morale. Welfare and Recreation) lip sync competition in 2017 while deployed on the USS Ronald Reagan, becoming a regular in the competitions, according to NBC news.
The officer insists he has never experienced harassment in the Navy, but when he was scheduled to perform at a diversity, justice and inclusion event at Langley Joint Air Force Base in the summer of 2022, it caused a stir among many conservatives and Christian extremists. ‘
“I am an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and being able to 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, referring to Bush-era policies that prevented military members from disclosing their sexual orientation.
‘It radiates representation and that is much needed in a culture and organization that has avoided us for so long.’
Announcing he would become a digital ambassador for the Navy, Kelley wrote that his experiences in the Navy “have given me so much strength, courage and ambition to continue to be an advocate and (representative) of queer sailors.”
He first started performing on ships after a sanctioned MWR (Morale. Welfare and Recreation) lip sync contest in 2017
Kelley, pictured as Harpy Daniels, said he was inspired by the drag queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he started watching when he was 16
The Navy’s decision to promote Kelley was part of its larger effort to reach Gen Z.
It ran a series of ads across social media platforms like Instagram, as well as TV and streaming services geared towards the younger generation.
The military arm even updated its Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion statement, which it prominently promoted online.
“Our Navy is committed to facilitating a workforce comparable to that of the country it serves,” the statement now reads.
“With nearly 50 percent of recruitable talent coming from diverse talent, the Navy must purposefully create a culture where everyone, regardless of background, has the opportunity to succeed.”
Lt. Ian Clark and PO 3rd Class Kyle Atkinson, writing for USNI magazine in January, said: “There is indeed an effort being made to link recruitment to Gen Z interests and concerns.”
But only 2 percent of the youth population meet the requirements to join the Navy and are open to service, a spokesman for the advertising agency VMLY&R told me. USNI news while the Navy aims to increase its size to 347,000 officers and ratings by 2024 – an increase from 341,736 current ratings.
The Navy’s decision to promote Kelley was part of its larger effort to reach Gen Z
But last month, Adm. Lisa Franchetti, deputy chief of naval operations, submitted written testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, saying they are expected to miss the target for enlisted sailors by 8,000 recruits.
“We entered this fiscal year with a record low Delayed Entry Pool after exhausting all resources to meet the recruiting target in FY2022,” she wrote of a program that allows people to accept contracts with the Navy but hold on hold before they go to boot camp. .
“In FY23, we expect to miss our active duty enlistment target of 8,000 sailors to our target of 37,700,” she continued. In addition, we expect to complete 3,000 sailors toward our target of 10,330 naval reserve recruits.
“We are using all available levers in FY23 to increase hiring while maintaining our standards.”
In March, a National Independent Panel on Military Service and Preparedness report suggested that poor recruiting was, at least in part, a result of the Army’s new wake-up policy.
It found that DEO initiatives risked “displacing the US military’s culture of warfare with a new culture of DEI promotion and compliance.”