US Navy sailor goes viral after walking his ship’s deck like a fashion catwalk

US Navy sailor goes viral after walking his ship’s deck like a fashion catwalk

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Airman Christian Sandoval
Airman Christian Sandoval (Photo: Supplied)

An active member of the US Navy recently went viral when he posted a short clip to TikTok of himself walking his assault ship’s deck like a fashion catwalk. He first applies some lip gloss. The background music is “Vogue” by Madonna

@itschristiannoel JETS!!! #military #milife #navy #trending #foryoupage #deployment #ABH ♬ Vogue Bask Rework – officialbask

Although brief, the clip has had over 3 million views and almost half a million likes. When it first appeared last month, it received thousands of supportive comments. Many praised the young serviceman for being his authentic self at work. 

However, it wasn’t long before the video was picked up by anti-woke accounts. The influential LibsofTikTok account on X prompted thousands of comments when it reshared the clip and asked, “Do you think videos like this show strength and confidence in our military?”

Airman Sandoval

The navy man in question is Airman Christian Sandoval. Raised in Dallas, Texas, the 20-year-old is based in San Diego. He’s been in the Navy for two years. 

The “Vogue” runway video is not the first time he’s posted a video in uniform. He’s since posted more of them. He feels it’s become part of his mission to promote how accepting the Navy is for members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

It’s quite a pivot for a theater kid who attended a performing arts high school. 

“I was studying theatre and fashion design [at Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas],” he tells Queerty via a Zoom call. “I ended up joining the Navy because I also wanted to follow my dreams of being a pilot.

He says he still loves fashion and acting and he hopes to pursue those at a later date.

“I’m trying to intertwine all that, and show people that you can be a pilot and you can be an actor, you can do all that.”

Airman Christian Sandoval
Airman Christian Sandoval (Photo: Supplied)

Sandoval came out as gay at 16. He joined the Navy three days after his 18th birthday.

“It has been a fun ride,” he exclaims. “I went on deployment a few months after I graduated boot camp. I went to the South China Sea and visited a bunch of countries. It was definitely a culture shock. I realized how far I’d grown up in just a few months, going from High School to now serving my country.”

Sandoval recently took on a new job role as an Operations Specialist: “Which basically means we work with radar and sonar, making sure we’re safe in our transit throughout the ocean.”

Fears before enlisting

Was he apprehensive before enlisting with the military?

“I was really nervous,” he admits. “My mom was probably more nervous than I was. She thought it would be too masculine of a job for me to do. In High School, I designed fashion shows. I was all about the performing arts. I wore high heels and makeup. And then I told everyone at my school that I was joining the Navy. I was one of the few. Because everyone else went to Juilliard and these really big-name colleges. And I joined the military. 

“I was scared because, growing up, I would watch military movies, and you see how hard it is, and how people yell at you and they’ll be, like, super aggressive. But it’s honestly changed a lot.”

Sandoval says he talked to others in the Navy about joining up. This included another gay man who assured him the military had evolved and welcomed LGBTQ+ people. 

“There are so many gay people in the military, but it’s really about how you do your job, and doing it professionally and gracefully,” Sandoval says. 

@itschristiannoel Take those risk!! I never would have imagined I would have joined the military. Now being in almost 2 years, I agree 100% that putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and things outside of your comfort zone is what makes you the best version of yourself. Even when your days are long, dont waste the time you have. Do something that makes you happy or something that is going to benifit your life!! #milife #military #navy #peptalk #maketodayagoodday #takerisk @Gracie Abrams Nation ♬ original sound – Christian Sandoval

His social media videos reflect this change. He was amazed when his catwalk clip went viral.

“I actually had that video in my drafts for about two months and I wasn’t going to post it because I didn’t like the way I looked. But I posted it, and I went to sleep because I didn’t have any service after I posted it. And I woke up the next day to a million views. That was pretty mind-blowing. I was getting so much love and support. And then Paris Hilton followed me!” he says, still sweetly thrilled by the notion.


And what about the backlash? Or the people complaining that “our enemies must be laughing at us” when they see his videos?

Sandoval takes a moment before answering. 

“I can understand where they’re coming from because I try to hear everyone out but I don’t respond to negative feedback. I just remind myself, I’m helping people. And it’s OK if people say, ‘Our enemies are laughing at us,’ because when I go to work, I know how to do my job and I do it right. I’m not there to play around or joke.

“I mean, when we go to work, we [still] have friends. We have a personality. But we’re there to do the mission and being gay doesn’t get in the way of doing my job and supporting my country in the way it needs to be supported.”

Boosting morale

Last week, a conservative lawmaker introduced a measure in Congress to halt funding of shows on military bases that involve drag. Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.), inserted his amendment into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). On the floor of Congress, Brecheen said, “The bulk of our fighting forces are inspired by GI Joe; they are not inspired by ‘be a Barbie girl in a Barbie world.”

When I mention Brecheen’s speech, Sandoval suggests that the whole purpose of military entertainment is to boost morale. Although he doesn’t state so himself, isn’t that something all lawmakers should favor?

“I love drag shows,” he adds. “I think in the military we’re doing better to advocate for every community, whether it’s Asian or Hispanic or LGBTQ+, and I think it’s fun that we bring up the morale of the Navy. 

“On deployment, we had lip sync battles,” he reveals, smiling at the memory. “After work, we’d have a few hours of lip-syncing in the cafeteria. And I went there a few times and did lip-sync songs. We’re all on deployment and we want to make the best of it.”

The rock band Weezer recently played a free concert for the Navy, which Sandoval attended. 

“And that was so amazing. And with the drag shows, I think it’s fun to have different things people might be interested in, to get off work and go and see a drag show. 

“I’m so pleased to have seen so much advocacy for different communities and different things that people might like.”

In short, why is it OK for sailors to watch Weezer but not drag?

Veterans reach out

Sandoval recently posted a six-minute TikTok discussing his life in the Navy. He says he was amazed at the number of gay veterans who responded. Many said they wished it had been like that back in the 80s and 90s. 

@itschristiannoel Hope someone finds this video helpful❤️ You should never feel ashamed to be yourself, not even in spaces like the military. This is me talking about my experience being myself in the Navy and how I have found some of my closest friends. If anyone has any questions about things I may not have talked about make sure to comment and I’ll answer! Be you and be true! HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!!🏳️‍🌈 #foryoupage #navy #military #millife #livelife #pridemonth🏳️‍🌈 ♬ original sound – r & m &lt3 ⸆⸉

Sandoval also recently joined the Mayor of Chula Vista in raising the rainbow flag at the City Hall for Pride Month.

“I was really honored to be asked to speak with the mayor, and I was really supported by my chain of command, my captain and my command master chief,” he says, with genuine appreciation.

Raising the Pride flag in Chula Vista for Pride Month
Raising the Pride flag in Chula Vista for Pride Month (Photo: Supplied)

He also mentions recently being nominated for a prestigious ‘Blue Jacket of the Quarter’ honor on his ship, in recognition of his service and expertise. 

Looking to the future not the past

Sandoval talks excitedly about still wanting to eventually pursue his dreams of a career in fashion and acting. He also has an idea to write a children’s book about his life in the Navy. 

If anyone wants proof the military has changed, look no further than Airman Sandoval. Even if the notion may rankle some conservatives. 

Sandoval ends our conversation by mentioning a news story that recently went around the world. A retired colonel, Col. Edward Thomas Ryan, chose to come out as gay in his obituary. He feared being ostracized if he’d done it when alive. 

“I think it’s really sad to see people not be as comfortable to come out in the military,” reflects Sandoval. “People might say I’m super feminine, which I am. I wear high heels and I wear makeup sometimes. I think it’s sort of my responsibility to show people you can wear high heels when you get off work but you can also serve your country.”

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