Lin-Manuel Miranda transformed from a substitute high school English teacher to a Tony award-winning theatrical genius behind iconic cultural hits like “Hamilton” and “Moana” — this is his evolution.
Born January 16, 1980, in New York, Miranda’s parents came to the state from Puerto Rico and their Washington Heights home was filled with cultural pride. It was also filled with records from shows like “Rent,” “Les Misérables,” and “Man of La Mancha.” So far before he won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, he had Broadway on the brain.
Miranda attended Wesleyan and made friends with fellow theater-lover Thomas Kail and conceived his first musical “In The Heights” in 1999. Filled with the Spanish, music, and sazón that flavored his childhood and the streets of Harlem, the show was originally performed at Wesleyan before Kail expressed interest in directing it and helping Miranda take it to Broadway. It eventually premiered at Richard Rogers in 2008 and took home four Tony awards — including Best Musical.The show’s character Vanessa was also named for Vanessa Nadal, whom Miranda later married. They now have two children together.
Momentum was building around Miranda’s talent, but the impetus for his biggest work came in 2008 while on vacation. After casually picking up Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, Miranda became fascinated by the founding father’s life and how he spent his life as a hard-working immigrant. He began concepting a theatrical telling of his life, coupling it with hip-hop beats. After performing what would become the opening to the innovative musical at the White House to Barack and Michelle Obama, Miranda opened “Hamilton” on Broadway in 2015. The show became a cultural phenomenon with soaring ticket prices and sold-out shows. The MacArthur Awards even offered him a genius grant. “Hamilton” also picked up 11 Tonys and earned Miranda a Pulitzer Prize.
Post “Hamilton” high, Miranda has been busy offering aid in Puerto Rico after the hurricane — even bringing the iconic show to the island. The widespread success of his musicals has also allowed him to showcase his songwriting skills in movies like “Moana” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”