12 things you probably didn’t know about Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2019. NBC/Getty Images
  • Lin-Manuel’s 2005 musical “In The Heights” put him on the map and his 2015 follow-up “Hamilton” made him a global phenomenon.
  • Miranda spent time as a seventh-grade English teacher before making it big on Broadway.
  • Before he was Broadway famous he went viral for singing the song “To Life” at his wedding.
  • He celebrates his 41st birthday on January 16.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who turns 41 on January 16, is one of the most gifted composers, playwrights, actors, rappers, and singers of our generation.

Perhaps it’d be easier to call him a modern-day renaissance man. Miranda already has a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, an Emmy, and three Grammys under his belt. Not to mention he’s responsible for the decade-defining musical sensation “Hamilton.”

Aside from his artistic accomplishments, there are tons of fun facts about Lin-Manuel Miranda. Keep reading to see 12 of our favourite.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name was inspired by a poem written about the Vietnam War.

Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2016 reading the poem for which he was named after. NotiCel/YouTube

The name Lin-Manuel is derived from the poem “Nana roja para mi hijo Lin Manuel” written by Puerto Rican poet José Manuel Torres Santiago about the Vietnam war.

Miranda, who was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, shared a photo of the poem – with a handwritten dedication from the poet himself – on Twitter in 2016, writing, “The story of my name.”

In 2016, Miranda travelled to Puerto Rico and read his namesake poem at a poetry festival.

He was born a performer — a video showing him dancing to “Footloose” as a kid proves it.

A young Lin-Manuel Miranda dancing along to ‘Footloose.’ Unsavi/YouTube

Miranda is a sport for gifting the internet such a precious video of him passionately dancing in his childhood bed.

In the description of the YouTube video, Miranda even pokes fun at himself. “‘He-Man’ bed sheets. Nintendo AND Malcomn Jamal-Warner [sic] poster. Suppress your jealousy,” he wrote. “‘All In The Family’ is on, in my room, so I occasionally space out and watch that, and check the lyric sheet that came with the album,” he explained.

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Miranda co-founded a hip-hop improvisational comedy troupe when he was in college.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (left) on stage with Freestyle Love Supreme and Jeff Garlin in 2005. Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Back in his days as a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Miranda and a group of friends started the improvisational hip-hop comedy group Freestyle Love Supreme.

The group was conceived as early as 2003 during breaks from rehearsing Miranda’s musical “In The Heights,” according to a 2019 New Yorker article. With the help of a keyboardist backing them up, members beatboxed and freestyle rapped, occasionally using topics audience members wrote on little pieces of paper as inspiration.

To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Freestyle Love Supreme performed a run on Broadway during the 2019-20 season and in 2020, a documentary, “We Are Freestyle Supreme,” outlining the group’s history was released.

He wrote the draft of his first musical, “In the Heights,” when he was a sophomore in college.

Lin-Manuel Miranda at the curtain call for the opening night of ‘In The Heights’ in March 2008. Steven Henry/Getty Images

During a 2012 Q&A with The Harvard Crimson, Miranda said that he wrote the first draft of the musical – a hip-hop-heavy slice of life story about a primarily Latino neighbourhood in Washington Heights, New York – during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University.

“I had the sort of dream-come-true situation of someone who wrote a show in school and actually got it up professionally, which does not happen often,” Miranda told The Crimson.

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Before Miranda was a Broadway staple, he was an English teacher.

Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2008. Carolyn Cole/Getty Images

Miranda worked as a teacher at his alma mater, Hunter College High School in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, before making it big.

In the same Q&A with The Harvard Crimson, Miranda added that he finished “In The Heights” while teaching seventh-grade English. Miranda told Education and Career News that being a teacher was one of the most rewarding jobs he ever had.

“It wasn’t about getting up in front of the class and having all eyes on you – that’s not how great teaching happens,” Miranda told the outlet. He continued, saying, “The finest moments of teaching are when you’re not saying much at all; when you’re lifting the discussion up and keeping the ball in the air for the kids to draw from each other. Like great actors, great teachers know how to listen. It’s not about being in the centre, it’s about being part of the moment and being present.”

Miranda also supported himself by writing campaign jingles for politicians.

Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2008. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Before Miranda was composing Tony and Grammy Award-winning musicals, he earned some cash to support his burgeoning career by writing jingles for politicians.

Miranda’s father, Luis A. Miranda Jr., is a political consultant in New York who advised former Bronx borough president and mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer and State Senator Adriano Espaillat, according to a 2012 New York Times article. Thanks to his father’s political connections, Miranda’s jingles were used by politicians including Ferrer, former state comptroller H. Carl McCall, and former governor Eliot Spitzer.

Miranda’s wife, the lawyer and scientist Vanessa Nadal, was his high school crush.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and his wife, Vanessa Nadal, in 2016. Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

Both Miranda and Nadal attended Hunter College High School in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. According to a 2010 New York Times article, Miranda was infatuated with Nadal, who was two years younger than him, but never had the guts to talk to her.

“She was gorgeous and I’m famously bad at talking to women I find attractive,” Miranda told the Times. “I have a total lack of game.”

After high school, Miranda went to Wesleyan, and Nadal to MIT. The two didn’t speak until 2005 when Miranda reconnected with Nadal over Facebook. He reached out and invited her to one of his shows and five years later, the two were married.

A video of Miranda singing to his wife at their wedding went viral.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and his wife Vanessa Nadal in 2009. Lars Niki/Getty Images

Long before he was known around the globe for performing Alexander Hamilton and even before playing Usnavi De La Vega from “In The Heights,” Lin-Manuel Miranda was internet famous thanks to a viral wedding performance.

When he and his wife, Vanessa Nadal, were married in 2010, he surprised her by singing and dancing the song “To Life” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” According to The New York Times, the video had 2.5 million views following Miranda’s wedding; it now has over 7.2 million.

Miranda cameoed on an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” and you, you guessed it, he had an awesome rap scene.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ in 2013. How I Met Your Mother/Hulu

In “Bedtime Stories,” the 11th episode of the ninth and final season of CBS’ sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” Miranda guest-starred as Gus, a passenger on the same bus Marshall (Jason Segel) was riding cross-country to get to Barney and Robin’s wedding.

When Marshall’s son Marvin won’t stop crying, Miranda’s character lays down some slick rhymes to help the baby fall asleep.

“HIMYM” isn’t the only show Miranda has appeared on. He’s also starred on “House,” “Modern Family,” and as himself for two hilarious episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in which he helps Larry David produce a musical.

Miranda, who composed the music for Disney’s animated film “Moana,” has said “The Little Mermaid” is the reason he started writing music.

Lin-Manuel Miranda at the premiere of Disney’s ‘Moana’ in 2016. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Miranda is a huge Disney fan – he told “Good Morning America” host Lara Spencer in 2016 that “The Little Mermaid” is why he started writing music.

In 2016, he co-wrote the score for “Moana” and got to work for co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, the duo responsible for multiple Disney films including “The Little Mermaid.”

Miranda told GMA it was important for him and his co-writers Opetaia Tavita Foa’I and Mark Mancina to create an authentic Polynesian soundtrack that would represent that region of the world.

“The thing that the directors really imparted to me was this is a part of the world that almost never gets represented onscreen, the Pacific Islands, so we want to honour them. We want to make a movie they can be proud of and that they can point to with pride,” Miranda said.

But his love for Disney really came full circle in 2019, when he started writing lyrics for the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” He’s working alongside the movie’s original composer, Alan Menken.

He teamed up with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director JJ Abrams to write the song “Jaba Flow.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda and JJ Abrams rapping ‘Jaba Flow’ in 2016. Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

On May 4, 2016 (“Star Wars” Day), Miranda and Abrams performed the song, which is written in “Huttese” – the language spoken by Jaba the Hutt – for a crowd of fans waiting outside the Richard Rogers theatre hoping to score “Hamilton” tickets.

Miranda also revealed the song is a nod to the rapper Shaggy.

“I went to a website that had all of the Huttese glossary of terms and it translates as, ‘No, lover, lover. It wasn’t me,'” Miranda said to the crowd. “It’s literally a Shaggy intergalactic remix.”

Miranda and Abrams recorded and released the song “Jaba Flow” under the pseudonym Shag F. Kava. If you’re a hardcore “Star Wars” fan you may have already de-coded the name, but for less intense fans, Miranda took to Twitter in 2019 to explain the deeper meaning.

“Here’s the deepest Star Wars trivia: SHAG is @jjabrams and my kids’ initials, KAVA the 1st syllables of our wives’ names. But I had another kid. So now…they’re SHAG F. KAVA,” Miranda’s tweet read.

Miranda is close to becoming the third person ever to win a PEGOT.

Lin-Manuel Miranda at the 2017 Tony Awards. Theo Wargo/Getty Images

What is a PEGOT you might ask? It’s like an EGOT – when someone wins an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award – with the addition of a Pulitzer Prize.

Miranda has won a Pulitzer,Tony Awards,Emmy Awards, and Grammys thanks to “Hamilton” and “In The Heights.” “Moana” was nominated for two Oscars but did not win.

Composers Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch are currently the only two people who have ever won a PEGOT.