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Meet the US Navy’s own premier drag queen and see her in action

Meet the US Navy’s own premier drag queen and see her in action

Joshua Kelley in his Navy uniform

Yeoman 3rd Class Joshua Kelley is challenging what it means to be a service member in the United States military. By day, he serves in the Navy as Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115’s administrative supervisor. As night falls, he assumes his drag queen persona — Harpy Daniels, Miss Gay Harrisburg America 2015.

Tyler John first shared Kelley’s story for the Navy, before sharing it with GSN. John is a journalist for the US Navy and the USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs Officer for our Gay, Lesbian and Supporting Sailors (GLASS) association.

Kelley was doing drag before the military became a new reality for him.

‘Drag was too costly of a road to go down at the time because I had college loans and living expenses to overcome,’ he originally told John.

He knew, however, of what the military could offer. His father served in the Navy for 24 years as a counselor.

‘Knowing the benefits of enlisting, I would be able to gain a more comfortable lifestyle to support myself and my future in drag.’

Joshua Kelley performing
Harpy in a performance onboard | Photo: Provided

Exploring his drag persona

As John describes: ‘Kelley’s hard work, determination and attention to detail is rivaled only by the dedication he has to his drag life.’

Kelley first began doing drag when he was 16, inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race.

‘I never knew a man could embrace his femininity in a creative and entertaining way like that and I knew it’s what I wanted to do,’ he explained.

‘When I put on a face, it’s a face of art and creativity, not just a face of make-up. To hear people cheer, laugh or cry, or even join in with you during a performance is an absolute thrill. The best thing about it is that it allows me to inspire others by just being who I am today.’

A drag family took Kelley in as he began exploring his lifestyle and identity.

Tequila Daniels, who has more than 19 years of drag experience, became Kelley’s drag mother.

‘Harpy had a spark within her,’ she told John of Kelley’s drag identity. ‘She was able to grab an audience’s attention and hold it, which is not as easy as some may think.’

Joshua Kelly performing
Showing off the skills | Photo: Provided

Balancing different lifestyles

Kelley is now based in Japan and has less time to pursue his drag life, along with his military commitment.

And he is committed.

Cmdr. Samuel Gray, former commanding officer of VFA 115, wrote of him: ‘Kelley has performed his demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner and demonstrated tremendous initiative and attention to detail.’

Previously, he also won the Navy’s Blue Jacket award for excellence as a sailor.

Still, on the weekends, he finds time to keep his passion alive.

‘I practice different make-up techniques by experimenting with different styles of drag make-up. I plan different looks through costuming and hairstyling for future performances, as well as rehearse choreography to new songs.’

With this current administration’s attacks on service members, both transgender people and those who are HIV positive, Kelley is a shining light of inspiration and defiance.

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