A Self-Made American Phenomenon: Lin-Manuel Miranda


(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Marwa Hameed, Editor-in-Chief

In the past two years, the world has sung Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name. Since the Broadway debut of his hip-hop musical “Hamilton” in 2015, the world has been captivated by the composer and original Broadway star. His passion for storytelling, by way of dazzling lyrics, is no more evident than in the Pulitzer Prize, three Grammy Awards, Emmy Award, MacArthur Fellowship, and three Tony Awards he has added to his list of accolades in the past ten years. Miranda has quite literally set the stage for a new era of American voices, as he has reignited the powerful positivity that theater can play in changing the forces of today’s society for the better.

His journey into the world of music began as a child, with his parents plethora of Broadway albums that were always playing in the background. Miranda’s dad had a soft spot for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” while his mother was always playing “Camelot” as she drove around. In an article with the New York Times, Miranda recalls that “the only shows I saw as a kid were that holy trinity: ‘Les Miz,’ ‘Cats,’ ‘Phantom.’” In a way, that culminated with him writing his first musical—one that is set in a similar northern Manhattan neighborhood as the one he grew up. That musical, “In the Heights,”  would go on to Broadway and would earn Miranda the 2008 Tony Award for Best Original Score, while the album would win the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. On May 12, 2009 he debuted a rap song about Alexander Hamilton, inspired by the biography of Hamilton authored by Ron Chernow, at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. This would be the beginning of his musical “Hamilton,” that would skyrocket his already profound career with its premiere in January of 2015. It seemed that Miranda had captivated all, and as former First Lady Michelle Obama later remarked: “He made history come alive and showed young people that they have a role to play in politics and public service.” Miranda, in an interview with the Washington Post, said that he only wanted to do three things in his life: “Make up songs, act and make movies.” Fulfilling his wish, Miranda has gone on to star in many movies, including the upcoming role of Jack the Lamplighter in a sequel to the beloved Mary Poppins, which also stars Emily Blunt.

With a Twitter following of 2.56 million people, he has used the platform to champion many causes that are close to his heart. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Miranda took to Twitter asking for donations and help. He has raised over $20 million dollars for relief and rescue efforts, according to information gathered by the Washington Post. Furthermore, he has organized a performance of “Hamilton” to be held in Puerto Rico in January of 2019, where all profits will go towards rebuilding efforts. Other causes he has helped to champion include March for Our Lives (a movement dedicated to helping the end of gun violence) and the campaign Keep Families Together (which is dedicated to preventing family separations at the border and uniting families that have been). He lent his voice at the “Families Belong Together” rally in Washington D.C., in June of this year, where he sang the song “Dear Theodosia” for all the “parents right now who can’t sing lullabies to their kids.” The way he sees it, as he fittingly put it in an interview with the Washington Post, is that he is “a private citizen with a big megaphone.” Other than using his voice for causes he finds important, he is a huge force in pop culture. Take for example when he tweeted his dismay that a favorite T.V. show of his, the hit sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” was being cancelled. A short while after, NBC renewed the series, with actors from the show taking to Twitter to show their gratitude.

Miranda has built an immense international following one filled theatre at a time, using the power of his success for something that has turned out to be far greater than a story of a man in revolutionary history as told by song. And while it seems that he has performed his best act yet, Lin-Manuel Miranda is far from done. In a piece J.J. Abrahams wrote about Miranda, as a part of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2016,  he put it the best: “It’s thrilling to consider how lucky we are to be in his audience, anticipating his next concoction, with his Hamilton’s promise echoing in our heads: ‘And there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait … Just you wait.'”