Sailor by day, performer by night — meet the Navy’s drag queen, ‘Harpy Daniels’

Joshua Kelley, a 24-year-old yeoman 3rd class, performs as ‘Harpy Daniels’ for sailors aboard the carrier Reagan. (MC3 Charles J. Scudella III/Navy) Years before he became a yeoman 3rd class in the United States Navy, Joshua Kelley was entertaining exuberant crowds under his drag name, “Harpy Daniels.”

The 24-year-old Berwick, Pennsylvania native, who currently serves as an administrative supervisor aboard the forward-deployed aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, brought Harpy along for the ride when he decided to join the Navy in February 2016, a choice he said was heavily inspired by his father.

“I’ve heard many stories of the Navy from my father, a 24-year senior chief Navy counselor, so it was something I always had insight on," Kelley told Navy Times. “I grew up with the service, so knowing the benefits of it made it an easy path to take.”

One of those benefits was financial stability, something Kelley was struggling to maintain while pursuing drag. Yeoman 3rd Class Joshua Kelley is a sailor onboard the carrier Ronald Reagan. (MC3 Tyler D. John/Navy) “With drag being my number one passion, it quickly became costly,” he said. "On top of just struggling to make ends meet and then pay college loans, the Navy became a great option to get myself situated in life.“

Now, despite the furious operational tempo the Navy demands of its personnel, Kelley manages to find time to perform as Harpy Daniels on ship during MWR-sanctioned events designed to give sailors a much-needed break from daily burdens. He even took home a $1,000 Navy Exchange card for a second place finish in a recent lip sync competition.

This concept of spreading happiness and boosting morale through performance has appealed to Kelley since he was a youth.

“I’ve always been an entertainer at heart,” he said. “It’s something you just feel and the vibes you bring with you when the spotlights are on. As a performer, your greatest joy is bringing smiles and laughter to those around you.”

Within his first year in the Navy, Kelley was voted to be the president of Strike Fighter Squadron 115′s Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions, became the public affairs officer for the carrier Reagan’s Gay, Lesbian and Supporting Sailors association, was named VFA-115′s Blue Jacket of the Year and earned his first Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Navy release said.

“Kelley has performed his demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner and demonstrated tremendous initiative and attention to detail,” the former commanding officer of VFA-115, Cmdr. Samuel Gray, wrote in the release. “He was instrumental in his administrative duties and he reinvigorated CSADD program participation, creating social and volunteer opportunities for junior Sailors." YN3 Joshua Kelley performs for sailors as ‘Harpy Daniels’ aboard the carrier Ronald Reagan in 2017. (MC3 Tyler D. John/Navy) The “exemplary” sailor’s interest in drag first developed when, as a 16-year-old, he began watching the popular reality show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Next came his first in-person drag experience in 2013, when his then-boyfriend took him to a show at Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.

“I […]

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