Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and genius behind the hit Broadway musical Hamilton never ceases to impress us. The Puerto Rican composer-playwright is one of 24 people selected as 2015 MacArthur Genius grant recipient. The fellowships come complete with a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 over the next five years. In other words, they are free to put the money towards anything they want.
Artist Nicole Eisenman, author Ta-Hehisi Coates, and puppeteer Basil Twist are just a few of the other fellows along with Miranda, who received the honorary grant.
"We try to reach people who have shown evidence of exceptional creativity but show the potential for more in the future," the foundation's managing director Cecila A. Conrad told the New York Times. "To give individuals the freedom to take some risks, to enable them to do new and exciting things."
If there's one person who has shown evidence of exceptional creativity, it's Miranda. In fact, he's quickly been rising to the top since he won four 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Orchestrations, Best Choreography, Best Musical, and Best Score for In The Heights. As for his recent musical Hamilton, critics are already calling it a "Broadway Blockbuster."
"It's made $32 million in advanced ticket sales, was sold out for months, and has already received a list of celebrity endorsements including President Obama. But writing smash-hit musicals isn't the only thing Miranda has had up his sleeves. Here are a few interesting facts we discovered about this very talented Puerto Rican!
- He's always been gifted: Miranda is the son of Puerto Rican parents and was raised in the predominately Latino neighborhood of Inwood, Manhattan. He attended school at a public school for gifted children on the Upper East Side.
- He was interested in Broadway at a young age: The 35-year-old grew up hearing Broadway cast albums, like Camelot and The Unsinkable Molly Brown blasting on the stereo in his Puerto Rican home.
- His bus driver got him into rap and hip-hop: Miranda's bus driver, Billy Baker Jr. had a huge passion for rap and hip-hop that strongly influenced Miranda. He would teach the students on the bus lyrics on his route from Inwood to Hunter College Elementary School.
- His father loved Broadway: Miranda's father Luis A. Miranda Jr. was a political consultant who owned hundreds of cast recordings and huge piles of Playbills. He couldn't afford to take his children to see Broadway plays so he collected recordings instead.
- He's part of a hip-hop group: Miranda is a co-founder and member of Freestyle Love Supreme, a popular hip-hop improv group that regularly performs in NYC. The group even had a television series premiere on Pivot TV in 2014.
- He's done voice recordings for audio books: He's lent his voice for audiobook recordings including, Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Benjamin Alire Saen's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Miranda also was the voice behind the Zak character in Coca Cola's 2013 Polar Bear animated short film.
- He doesn't plan on keeping all his grant money: In fact, Miranda told the New York Times that he plans to donate some of his prize money to organizations he loves, like the Graham Windham organization founded in 1806 by Alexander Hamilton's wife Elizabeth which helps provide for poor children and families along with the Mariposa Center, an organization that helps young girls in the Dominican Republic.
- He has a gift for memorizing lyrics: He's had a talent for memorizing lyrics from an early age. "One of my favorite books was, The 12 Days of Christmas, and I would just go up to people and say, 'I can sing The 12 Days of Christmas,' and I would make them sit through me reciting it, and I'd go all the way, each time," he said. "I've always hooked into lyrics."
- He led a flash-mob at his wedding: It was a flash-mob version of "To Life" From "Fiddler on the Roof." He also named his son Sebastian after the crab from "The Little Mermaid." How cute!