It isn't difficult to see the true talent and capacity in those who've achieved massive success. At Selfmade, commend those that have decided to dedicate their lives to their crafts and passions, and we understand why they do it.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s success isn't about the roles that he's cast in, the prizes that he's been awarded, nor the millions in net worth. That's simply a result of the value that he's contributing to the world.
Lin-Manuel is a world-famous actor, writer, rapper, director, producer, and playwright. He is best known for creating the Broadway musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton”. His awards include a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, and so much more. Lin Manuel’s net worth is currently over $80 million and growing. But his financial success isn’t the only thing that makes Lin great.
Lin-Manuel is a fantastic example of what we strive for here at Self Made. He has accomplished a tremendous amount in his short life so far, but he isn’t stopping anytime soon. Even after achieving worldwide success and a financial fortune, he still strives to write great music. His play “Hamilton” has inspired countless people to go after their dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem. Even after achieving massive success, he devotes much of his time to making a difference in the causes that matter to him.
9 Years of Grit Earns an Award-Winning Broadway Show
Lin-Manuel was born in 1980 and grew up in Washington Heights, New York City. His parents were originally from Puerto Rico. Lin’s mother was a psychologist, and his father was a political consultant for several New York City mayors. At least one month out of every year, Lin would spend his summer vacation in Puerto Rico with his grandparents. His family made sure that he was fluent in Spanish and never lost touch with his culture.
When he was just nine years old, he was already composing his music for piano recitals. He also made home movies and filmed videos for his book report projects. In middle school, he felt like an outsider. He always tried to stay out of sight in the back of the classroom. After reading a musical Lin submitted as a class assignment, Lin’s 8th-grade teacher told him that he had true writing talent and encouraged him to join the High School theater program. This had such a profound effect on Lin that it led him to become a teacher as well.
However, once Lin-Manuel entered High School, it was clear that he didn’t fit into the lead roles. Most Broadway musicals have an all-white cast, and this left him with few options to shine.
I started writing musicals because I wanted to be in musicals. But I didn’t see many opportunities for myself. You’ve got A Chorus Line and West Side Story. That’s all I’ve got.”-Lin-Manuel Miranda
There is a saying that goes, “Write about what you know.” So Lin-Manuel did just that. While attending Wesleyan University in 1999, he wrote his first full-length musical about his hometown of Washington Heights called “In The Heights”. He was just a sophomore in college and played the main character, Usnavi de la Vega, and named the love interest Vanessa after his High School girlfriend, who later became his wife.
In 2002, Lin-Manuel graduated from college and began working together with his friends John Buffalo Mailer and Thomas Kail to revise “In The Heights” to get it ready for a bigger stage. The play did very well in theaters that were off-Broadway, but it still wasn’t enough to be a full-time living. During this time, Lin worked as a substitute teacher at his old High School. He also made some money on the side as a writer, publishing articles for the Manhattan Times as a food critic. He also wrote catchy songs and ad copy for TV commercials.
Nine years after he originally wrote “In The Heights”, it finally made its premiere on Broadway in March of 2008. The musical blew everyone away, and it was nominated for 13 Tony Awards that year. It won four out of eleven nominations, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Lin-Manuel personally won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his part as Usnavi. The soundtrack also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. After all of this recognition, it was time to move on to bigger things. Lin-Manuel left the role of Usnavi to another actor on Broadway and began playing Usnavi on the Los Angeles and San Juan, Puerto Rico tour.
For all of the big projects you see Lin-Manuel doing on the surface, he seems to be working on a dozen other projects at once behind the scenes. In 2009, he had the privilege that any theater geek would die for. He worked together with the famous Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim on re-writing the Spanish language version of West Side Story.
Aside from performing on stage, he started making minor appearances as an actor on TV shows like House, The Sopranos, How I Met Your Mother, Ducktales, His Dark Materials, and Modern Family. Aside from his budding film career, he collaborated with other writers and composers to write new broadway plays.
The President’s Disapproval Leads to a $75 Million Deal
Aside from loving to write and perform, Lin is also a bit of a history nerd. In 2008, Lin-Manuel was on vacation, and he picked up a not-so-casual beach read. This was Ron Chernow’s 818-page biography of Alexander Hamilton. When he finished the book, he felt entirely inspired by Hamilton’s story. Few people know that Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant from the Caribbean. And if it were not for him, America would be drastically different than it is today. This story is the epitome of the real American Dream.
By this time, Lin-Manuel was already good friends with The Obamas. So when they invited him to the White House to perform in 2009, he rapped the opening number for what would eventually become the Hamilton musical. At the time, the Obamas were unsure about the idea of a Hamilton hip hop musical. The reluctance from the President of the United States didn’t stop Lin-Manuel. He spent six whole years researching and writing Hamilton before he was ready to bring it to the stage.
Any time you’re going to put something new into the world, there are a million people who will tell you how they’ve done it better before.”-Lin-Manuel Miranda
In 2015, Hamilton premiered and received a standing ovation from the audience. The critics were so impressed that they wrote stellar reviews. On the opening night of the first public performance, there were already 700 people winding around the block, just hoping to win a lottery for the privilege of buying a ticket. Hamilton quickly became the top-selling Broadway musical of all time. Tickets were sold out every night and shortly afterward, he received a genius grant of $625,000 to keep going.
Hamilton is presented with a totally color-blind cast. Various castings and tours of the play have had characters played by all different races. Billboard listed the Hamilton soundtrack as the eleventh biggest album of the entire decade in the 2010s.
All of these performances made Lin-Manuel a fortune. He has a contract that guarantees he will earn a 3% royalty on each performance of Hamilton. So by 2017, he made $12.7 million. In 2020, The Walt Disney Corporation paid Lin-Manuel $75 million for Hamilton. This deal gave them the right to showcase the musical on their streaming platform Disney Plus and the rights to begin selling Hamilton merchandise at Disney parks and stores. This went down in history as the most expensive film acquisition ever. The fact that this sold-out play would be available to stream on Disney Plus is what motivated millions of customers to sign up.
Overachieving for the Underserved
If you’ve seen the play, you already know that Alexander Hamilton was an orphan. Miranda began to support a nonprofit adoption agency called Graham Windham, initially founded by Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.
In 2016, Lin-Manuel began getting involved in politics - specifically seeking debt relief for Puerto Rico. He brought attention to the fact that Puerto Rico was $70 billion in government debt, and yet the United States had never allowed them to declare bankruptcy. Because of his action, he convinced senators to pass a bill to alleviate the burden. The very next year, in 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Lin Manuel was able to single-handedly raise $41 million to help people get immediate relief. He continues to donate money to schools in Puerto Rico.
Lin-Manuel has become the genius behind Disney’s moves towards inclusivity and diversity. He has written and performed songs for films like Moana, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the upcoming 2021 remake of The Little Mermaid. He also starred in Mary Poppins Returns. Lin is also writing a new Disney animated musical called “Encanto”, which is set in Colombia.
You are perfectly cast in your life. I can't imagine anyone but you in the role. Go play.”-Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s journey is far from over. Even though he has achieved so much in his lifetime so far, he never stops working hard at acting, writing and trying to make the world a better place.
Even at the young age of 12, Lin-Manuel realized that there weren't many people like him being cast in lead musical roles. So, he took it upon himself to create the opportunity for anyone. At first, he was just a kid with a dream and was doing great things in his realm, but the discouragement from others didn't come until he set off to create his best work, The Hamilton Musical.
He was told the usual "it has already been done" and "your version isn't any better". Instead of using the negativity as a reason to abandon his dreams, it fueled his ambition. Much like Lin-Manuel, we know that we play the lead role in our Selfmade story.