We all know Lin-Manuel Miranda as the genius behind Hamilton, but that isn’t the only one of his achievements. The guy is just over 40 and has lived a full and fulfilling life, following his dreams and pursuing his passions in the best way possible. And trust us when we say there is much more to his success than a knack for writing and composing great music. Read on to find out more about this artist par excellence and an all-round great guy.
1. Act One, Scene One
Lin-Manuel Miranda was born in 1980, in New York, to Puerto Rican parents, Luz and Luis. His mother is a clinical psychologist and his father is a political consultant. Miranda grew up in a mainly Hispanic neighborhood and his childhood has played a huge role in making him who he is today, as we shall see.
2. A Power-Packed Name
His name is inspired by a poem about the Vietnam War, Nana Roja Para Mi Hijo Lin Manuel. Translated loosely, it means, “A Red Lullaby to my son, Lin Manuel.” Miranda’s parents were big fans of the poet, Jose Manuel Torres Santiago, who wrote it. Interestingly, Luis had chosen the name when he was young and single.
3. Family Matters
Miranda’s parents’ contribution to his success: Love and support. Miranda’s mom feels family is supremely important. “The key for us was that from young, both Lin-Manuel and Lucecita, were supported.” With this kind of encouragement, no wonder Miranda is who he is, and sister Luz is the CFO of their family business.
4. Doing the Right Thing
Miranda’s parents are just his top cheerleaders, they’re also his role models. A member of Planned Parenthood, his mother educates the Hispanic community on reproductive health, while his father was front and center in advising the Mayor’s office for Hispanic Affairs in the 80s and has always been a voice for his community.
5. Daddy Knows Best
Luis was all for his kids putting themselves out there. Even when he was sworn in as Special Advisor to the Mayor on Hispanic Affairs, he wanted his kids to feel a part of his success and had them write and read out small speeches at the ceremony. Parents, take note!
6. The Law of Drama
Although Luis Miranda hoped Lin-Manuel Miranda would become a lawyer, he was all for it when his son chose a different path. In fact, when Miranda was confused about whether he should choose a stable part-time job, or continue freelance gigs while he focused on writing, Luis wrote him a letter telling him to take chances and go after his dreams.
7. Summer Camp Tales
Who doesn’t enjoy summer camp? Well, Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t. At all! He hated it so much he wrote miserable letters to his parents, emotionally blackmailing them to come get him. When that didn’t work, he faked a spinal cord injury to be taken seriously. The downside: He had to keep up the pretense the whole summer long!
8. Vid it
Another time his parents got an inkling about Miranda’s massive talent was when they saw him do a video book report in Grade Three on The Pushcart War. Miranda recently posted the video on Youtube, declaring that he’d gotten an A on it.
9. Serious West Sider
Miranda went to Hunter College High School, where he staged a production of West Side Story, adapting it to showcase what “being Puerto Rican means.” That wasn’t his first experience with the play though. He had watched it growing up with his mom and played Bernardo in a sixth-grade production of the play. In fact, Leonard Bernstein’s music is one of the strongest influences on his work.
10. High School Highs
West Side Story wasn’t the only play Miranda put on at high school. In fact, his first musical had a disturbing subject. It was about “a dissected fetal pig rising up for revenge.” Aren’t you glad his choice of plot points changed over the years?
11. Friends & Foes
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows at high school though. While Lin-Manuel Miranda had some cool friends like Chris Hayes, of MSNBC fame, who directed Miranda’s fetal pig musical in his senior year, he was also bullied by a classmate who is now known as the rapper, Immortal Technique. The two are friends now though, and “proud of each others’ success.”
12. Field of Dreams
Being involved in his school’s theatrical productions was great for two reasons: It gave Lin-Manuel Miranda a chance to hone his dramatic skills, and it gave him direction, so he knew he wanted to do theater and film in college. At Wesleyan University, Connecticut he had a “rude awakening” however, when he realized his school experience hadn’t taught him as much as he’d thought. Eventually, he dropped the idea to study film and focused on theater alone.
13. Friend to All
Another advantage of being a “theater kid” was that Miranda had many friends all over school because of his interactions with them on and off stage. It helped him because when his own grade was “kicking (his) butt” he always had friends from other grades to hang out with. Sounds like a great reason to nudge your kids toward theater, no?
14. The Beginning of the Beginning
In the Heights was Miranda’s first Broadway show and hit, and he started writing it at college. It was a love story in its earliest draft. He changed it up it after college because he saw the changes in his own Washington Heights neighborhood, where he had grown up. He wanted the play to be a tribute to the place he loved and his memory of it.
15. Performing in College
Lin-Manuel Miranda went on to write, direct, and act in many shows in Wesleyan. He also formed a hip-hop improv comedy group there called Freestyle Love Supreme. They performed around New York, and at different festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
16. The First Time
The first musical Miranda ever saw was Les Miserables. He was only seven when he went to watch it.
17. Music & Politics
What can a struggling writer do to make ends meet? Well, Miranda’s dad, Luis, had an answer to that. He found some gigs for his son to write music for various Democratic politicians’ ads. In fact, Miranda was responsible for former New York Mayor, Eliot Spitzer’s campaign jingle. Sounds like one cool job!
18. Good Teacher
Apart from writing jingles, Miranda also worked as a substitute English teacher at his former high school, Hunter College. How awesome to have been one of his former students…imagine telling people you were once taught by the Hamilton star!
19. Odd Jobs
While a lot of people work in restaurants as servers, hostesses, or bartenders before they make it big, Miranda’s restaurant-related job was slightly different. He wrote restaurant reviews for Manhattan Times.
Lin-Manuel Miranda met Vanessa Nadal in high school, where she was two years below him, but no, they weren’t high school sweethearts. Miranda liked her but was too scared to ask her out. He apparently had a “total lack of game.” They started dating in 2005, when he found her on Facebook and convinced her to come watch him on stage, where she realized he was a pretty awesome. There was no looking back after that.
21. Boss Babe
Nadal has supremely impressive credentials in her own right: An MIT graduate in chemical engineering, she worked as a scientist for Johnson & Johnson before deciding to switch tracks and study law. She got her law degree from Fordham and worked at Jones Day Law firm until 2016. You go, girl!
22. A Wedding to Remember
Lin-Manuel Miranda knows how to impress a crowd, and his wedding was no different. The event took place at Belvedere Mansion in 2010, and Miranda surprised his wife with a performance of “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof. It wasn’t just him either, his father-in-law, his own father, and friends (including Broadway stars) from both sides all were part of the fun.
Thankfully, Miranda (bless him) put it on Youtube, cos that’s one show I didn’t wanna miss!
23. Happily Ever After
Miranda never fails to credit his wife whenever he gets an award or any acknowledgment. He rapped “Vanessa, who still leaves me breathless, thanks for loving me when I was broke and making breakfast,” when he won a Tony in 2008. He wrote a sonnet when he won another Tony for Hamilton’s score, in which he claimed, “My wife’s the reason anything gets done.”
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
24. The Larson Inspiration
Lin-Manuel Miranda was hugely inspired by Jonathon Larson’s rock musical, Rent. He was blown away by the use of contemporary music to express modern issues. It inspired him to add “freestyle rap,…bodegas, and salsa numbers” to his version of In the Heights that was performed at Wesleyan, which some reviews called “a hip-hop version of Rent.”
25. Taking the Show on the Road
After watching the stage performance of In the Heights at Wesleyan, some of the alumni and seniors, including John Buffalo Mailer and Thomas Kail, approached Miranda. They were interested in seeing the show adapted for Broadway. Eventually, playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes joined them and contributed in the play’s smash success. Miranda really appreciated how her perspective helped bring out the “flavors of the community .”
26. Off-Broadway Success
In the Heights was hugely successful Off-Broadway; so much so that it won Miranda the patronage of some “big name theater producers” and a place on Broadway just a year after it debuted Off-Broadway. It was praised for its fresh sound with the “hip-swaying rhythms of Latin American music,” and for giving the Latin American people a central space on stage.
27. Broadway Success
Happily, the show was an even bigger success on Broadway, when it opened in 2008. Miranda was part of the original cast, and played the role of Usnavi, the owner of a bodega, or grocery store, in the neighborhood. The play went on to be nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning two for Best Musical and Best Original Score.
28. Movie Now
Warner Bros. has adapted In the Heights into a movie, directed by Jon M. Chu. It was going to be released in the summer of 2020 but unfortunately the release has been put on hold. Miranda tweeted that he had the best time shooting for the film with the rest of the cast, and when it is safe people will be able to go watch it together, flags in hand.
29. Disney Fan
Lin-Manuel Miranda is a huge Disney fan and his favorite character was Sebastian, the singing crab from The Little Mermaid. He says he could always relate to the character who is just “a frustrated musician!” So fond is he of the character that he named his firstborn Sebastian too!
Miranda has been Twitter famous since way before Hamilton. His “Good Morning” and “Goodnight” tweets have a fan following of their own, and he is an avid tweeter, posting adorable snippets from time spent with his sons, his wife, and sharing a fun repartee with his dad, who is also active on the social media platform!
31. Puerto Rican Through and Through
A huge advocate for Puerto Rico, Lin-Manuel Miranda used to spend all his summers there. In high school he decided he was going to go all out to embrace his culture instead of trying to blend in. He campaigned hard for the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria asking the government to step up. His song “Almost Like Praying,” an adaptation of West Side Story’s “Maria” was sung by 21 famous Latino singers to raise money for the hurricane victims.
32. Son Tweets
Although his kids may not be on social media themselves (yet!) Miranda frequently posts about them on Twitter. He announced the birth of his second son, Francisco, in true playwright style complete with an “intermission!” He recently posted a scavenger hunt Sebastian had set up for him with pictures of his hand-drawn clues. The prize? Three parties whenever he wants! An “aww” moment if ever there was one.
33. Mary Poppins
As a child, Miranda found it very hard to sit through the whole of Mary Poppins. He loved it until the “Feed the Birds” song started, but just couldn’t watch after that because the song was too sad for him! He watched the whole movie only recently, though he was always a fan of Dick Van Dyke. Fitting that he should play the role of his mentee in Mary Poppins Returns then.
34. Shining Bright
Lin-Manuel Miranda played the role of a lamplighter in this new version of Mary Poppins, alongside Emily Blunt. Apart from wanting to take a break from the serious role of Alexander Hamilton, and wanting to work with Blunt, another big reason Miranda found the role appealing was the prospect of climbing Big Ben in the climactic scene.
35. How Far He’ll Go
Mary Poppins Returns isn’t the only time Miranda has been associated with Disney. He wrote the music and songs for Moana, which resulted in him winning a Grammy and being nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.” He is also returning to the Disney fold with the music and songs of the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, which he will do in collaboration with Alan Menken.
Who knows, maybe he’ll even get to play his favorite Disney character: Sebastian!
36. Happy Day
Miranda sure knows how to make someone’s day. His latest appearance was in John Krasinski’s web series, Some Good News, when he and the entire cast of Hamilton joined him and Emily Blunt on Zoom to cheer up a little girl who was bummed about missing Hamilton on stage because of the current lockdown. Nine-year-old Aubrey was starstruck and speechless as the cast performed her favorite song from the play.
37. With Honors
Miranda is just one Oscar away from becoming a PEGOT: He already has a Pulitzer, three Tonys, three Grammys, an Emmy, two Olivier Awards and has been nominated for an Academy Award. He received the Genius Grant from the MacArthur Fellows Program, has stars on the Puerto Rico Walk of Fame as well as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has received Kennedy Centers Honors, and several honorary degrees from various institutions including his former alma mater, Wesleyan. Phew. Did I mention he’s just 40?
38. Discovering Hamilton
Miranda first read Alexander Hamilton’s biography by Ron Chernow, when he was between the Off-Broadway and Broadway production of In the Heights. He supposedly took the 800-page-book with him on vacation for some “light reading!” Clearly, not everyone has the same definition of “light” reading.
39. Fan-Boy Nerves?
However, when Chernow showed up at a performance of In the Heights, Miranda really lost it. Co-star Christopher Jackson recalls how Miranda was panicking before going on stage and told him that they needed to put on a flawless performance that day.
40. No Rush
All good things take a little time, and that’s certainly true for Hamilton. Miranda reportedly spent six years writing the musical. He asked Chernow to fact check all the songs he wrote in case he’d made a mistake. He also spent a whole year writing one single song: “My Shot.”
41. I See Me
What sets Miranda’s work apart is the absolute authenticity that shines through, which is because he writes about what he knows. Luis said that the thing that struck him most about Heights and Hamilton was how Miranda was trying to “elevate” their people, and their side of the story, while Miranda himself said that as soon as he read Hamilton had come from the Caribbean he had felt that this was someone like his father, or the “taxi drivers who become congresspeople,” basically the people he had lived around his whole life.
42. Hamilton at the White House
Miranda has been on great terms with Barack Obama. He was present at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word in 2009, when he performed a rap on Alexander Hamilton’s life. In Obama’s last year as president, he went back to the White House to perform a freestyle rap using prompts the ex-POTUS held out and sang “One Last Time” with Christopher Jackson to celebrate his legacy. The cast of Hamilton also held workshops with local students at the White House.
43. May the Force be With You
Miranda has written music for Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the Cantina scene. He co-composed it with director J.J. Abrams, who asked him if he was up for it while at a performance of Hamilton. Miranda, who was not acting that night, said he would “drop everything” and do it…and so he did!
44. The Ten Dollar Bill
Miranda’s super successful run of Hamilton had a disturbing side effect. It ensured that Alexander Hamilton’s picture is not replaced by that of a woman on the US 10$ bill. While this may be upsetting for women who have campaigned to have representation on the nation’s currency, it is certainly a testimonial to Hamilton’s far-reaching influence.
45. Fans in High Places
Many past and current government officials have been to see Hamilton. Former POTUS Barack Obama has joked about the play being the only thing he and Dick Cheney agree upon.
46. The Pence Episode
Mike Pence also went to watch the show before being sworn in as VP, only to experience a brutal surprise. While the audience booed him as he walked in, it was the cast that had a special, unscripted, message for him. They said they hoped the show inspired him to “uphold…American values and to work on behalf of all.” Trump was not amused by this message and considered it “harassment,” asking the cast to apologize.
47. TV Appearances
Lin-Manuel Miranda has also appeared in a myriad of television shows including How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and has hosted Saturday Night Live. He is also playing a key character, Lee Scoresby, in His Dark Materials on HBO.
48. Performing in Puerto Rico
Post-Hurricane Maria, Miranda went to Puerto Rico to perform Hamilton. He received an outstanding welcome as the audience clapped and roared when he appeared on stage. It was a very emotionally charged moment for him. He was unable to hold back tears when he went onstage for the curtain call, wrapped in the island’s flag. Happily, there was a joyful moment too, when he called his father on stage to acknowledge his efforts for fundraising.
Miranda stepped away from his role of Alexander Hamilton in July 2016. He promised he would return to the role at some point, but the tickets of his last performance sold for 10k per seat as many people thought they may never have a chance to see him performing the role again.
50. High School Reunion
Miranda’s fame also lies in his relatability and accessibility. The star tweets about the same apprehensions and everyday experiences we may all have. For instance, he live-tweeted about his 20-year high school reunion, sharing his anxiety about meeting old friends he hadn’t been in touch with, and then posted pictures sharing his relief that not much had changed.
He also began and ended the story with an appreciation tweet for his wife, declaring how lucky he was to have her. Sigh. Is that sweet, or is that sweet?
51. From Beach to Home
Miranda and his wife found one member of their family while vacationing at the beach in the Dominican Republic. A half-starved stray puppy turned up and playfully snapped at Nadal’s ankles. The couple fell in love with her and brought her home, naming her “Tobillo,” which means “ankle” in Spanish. She has been an integral part of their family since then.
Tobillo helps bring out Miranda’s creative side. He says he has the best ideas for writing and melodies while he is out on walks with her. He often mentions her on Twitter as well, and fans have had a great time editing a picture of hers Miranda took in front of the green screen.
53. Giving Back
Lin-Manel Miranda and his family have always been strong proponents of giving back to causes close to their heart. Since he and his sister grew up watching their parents always busy and involved in some project or the other, it came naturally to them as well. Their latest ventures include committing for ten years to a $1 million fund to provide theater scholarships for students of color.