Drag queen in the US Navy claps back at trolls: ‘Haters only hate when you’re winning’

Side by side images of Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley in a US Navy uniform and Kelley's drag queen persona Harpy Daniels in a pink outfit

The queen behind the US Navy’s digital initiative to use drag to attract recruits has clapped back at haters, saying: “Haters only hate when you are winning.”

The military branch designated Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who is non-binary and performs as Harpy Daniels while in drag, as one of its five digital ambassadors from autumn 2022 until March 2023.

The programme was launched to diversify and expand the Navy’s recruitment candidate pool. 

But Kelley’s drag persona has come under fire from several prominent right-wingers, such as far-right Georgia politician Marjorie Taylor Greene, Fox News host Megyn Kelly and podcaster Graham Allen. 

Kelley responded to the right-wing backlash in a fierce TikTok video on Wednesday (3 May).

In the video, the enlisted service member shows a screenshot of Allen’s tweet in which the conservative claimed videos of Harpy Daniels performing meant the Navy was “not the same military [he] served under” and that America’s “enemies laugh at us” for it. 

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But Kelley proved that the Navy service member by day, drag queen by night “DGAF” (don’t give a f**k) about the haters by sharing fabulous, proud videos of themselves both in and out of drag.

“Haters only hate when you are winning,” Kelley captioned the video. “LGBTQ+ people never could serve open because of DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell).

“Now that we can, you can see who the homophobic and transphobic people are.”


Haters only Hate when you are winning. LGBTQ+ People never could serve open because of DADT. Now that we can, you can see who the Homphobic and Transphobic people are. #fyp #miltok #military #lgbt #dragtok #grahamallen

♬ original sound – jaredleto

In a follow-up video on TikTok, Kelley thanked “all of the people who are supporting and showing me love and the respect” amid the right-wing backlash.

The drag queen/sailor called on people to show the same support for the others involved in the US Navy’s digital ambassadors programme, saying the group “showed anyone can lead no matter rank or background”.

The apparent LGBTQ+ inclusion effort from the Navy comes at a time when queer and trans rights are being heavily targeted by conservatives in the US. 

Republicans have proposed and implemented a host of anti-trans legislation – attacking everything from gender-affirming healthcare to trans inclusion in sports – in states across the US. 

Additionally, right-wing voices have increasingly targeted family-friendly drag events and even beer brand Bud Light for working with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney to promote its product.

Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has a history of supporting anti-LGBTQ+ policies, attacked the Navy for using a drag performer in its digital ambassador programme. 

In a hateful tweet responding to a Pentagon press briefing, Greene conflated drag performances with what she described as “trans programmes”.  

“I will NOT vote to fund ANY Trans programs of ANY kind especially of medical nature in our NDAA [National Defense Authorisation Act]. ZERO,” she wrote. 

Greene continued: “Our military has only one purpose, the defence of our country. Our military needs to train men for war, not turn men into fake women.”

The NDAA is the name for a series of federal laws specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense. 

Amid the backlash, a Navy spokesperson told Newsweek that the military branch is “proud of and stands by any person who is willing to take an oath to put their life on the line in defence of this nation”. 

“Much like the country we serve, our Navy is stronger when we draw upon our diverse resources, skills, capabilities and talents,” the spokesperson added. “We remain committed to an inclusive environment.”

Kelley previously told PinkNews that Harpy is a “fierce, fun and fabulous queen” who “lives to entertain, give poise, grace and serve body and face”. 

“Harpy is the rounded package deal of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent,” Kelley said. “She sees beauty in all and lives to inspire others to be yourself.”

Kelley received “so much support and acceptance” for Harpy Daniels once the service member built a career as a sailor.