Miranda was born in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, the son of Luz Towns, a clinical psychologist, and Luis A. Miranda, Jr., a Democratic Party consultant who advised New York City mayor Ed Koch. Miranda has one older sister, Luz, who is the Chief Financial Officer of the MirRam Group. He grew up in the Latino neighborhood of Inwood, but he spent a month every year in his grandparents' home town, Vega Alta, in Puerto Rico. He is of mostly Puerto Rican descent. His mother's ancestors include an interracial couple, Sophie, who was black, and David Towns, who was white; from the early 1800s, this couple spent their married life trying to outrun slavery as laws and governments changed around them. Ensuing branches of the Towns family primarily married Mexican spouses in Texas and Mexico, and Miranda, for his part, has described his ancestry as a quarter Mexican. The name "Lin-Manuel" was inspired by a poem about the Vietnam War, Nana Roja Para Mi Hijo Lin Manuel, by the Puerto Rican writer José Manuel Torres Santiago.
As a child, Miranda wrote jingles, including one later used for Eliot Spitzer's 2006 gubernatorial campaign. After attending Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School, Miranda graduated from Wesleyan University in 2002. During his time there, he co-founded a hip hop comedy troupe called Freestyle Love Supreme. He wrote the earliest draft of In the Heights in 1999, his sophomore year of college. After the show was accepted by Second Stage, Wesleyan's student theater company, Miranda added "freestyle rap ... and salsa numbers." Second Stage premiered it in 1999. Miranda wrote and directed several other musicals at Wesleyan and acted in many other productions, ranging from musicals to Shakespeare. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Wesleyan University in 2015.
In 2002, Miranda and John Buffalo Mailer worked with director Thomas Kail to revise In the Heights. Book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes joined the team in 2004. After success off-Broadway, the musical went to Broadway, opening in March 2008. It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. It also won the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Miranda's performance in the leading role of Usnavi earned him a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Miranda left the cast of the Broadway production on February 15, 2009.
Miranda reprised the role when the national tour of In the Heights played in Los Angeles from June 23 to July 25, 2010. He again joined the tour in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Miranda rejoined the Broadway cast as Usnavi from December 25, 2010 until the production closed on January 9, 2011, after 29 previews and 1,185 regular performances.
Miranda created other work for the stage during this period. He wrote Spanish language dialogue and worked with Stephen Sondheim to translate into Spanish song lyrics for the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story. In 2008, he was invited by composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz to contribute two new songs to a revised version of Schwartz and Nina Faso's 1978 musical Working, which opened in May 2008 at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida.
Miranda also did work for film and television. In 2007, he made a guest appearance on the television series The Sopranos in the episode "Remember When", and in 2009, he played Alvie, Gregory House's roommate in a psychiatric hospital, in the two-hour season six premiere episode of House; he returned to the role in May 2010. He also has done work for Sesame Street, playing occasional roles and singing the theme song to the recurring segment Murray Has a Little Lamb. He was a composer and actor for 17 episodes of the 2009 revival of The Electric Company and appeared in the CollegeHumor sketch "Hardly Working: Rap Battle", playing himself working as an intern and rapper.
During these years, Miranda also worked as an English teacher at his former high school, wrote for the Manhattan Times as a columnist and restaurant reviewer, and composed music for commercials.
Miranda co-wrote the music and lyrics for Bring It On: The Musical with Tom Kitt and Amanda Green. Bring It On premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2011. The musical began a US national tour on October 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. It then played a limited engagement on Broadway at the St. James Theatre, beginning previews on July 12, and officially opening on August 1, 2012. It closed on December 30, 2012. It was nominated for Tony Awards in the categories of Best Musical and Best Choreography.
In 2011, Miranda appeared on the TV series Modern Family in the episode "Good Cop Bad Dog". He appeared as Charley in an Encores! staged concert of Merrily We Roll Along at New York City Center in February 2012. Later that year, he appeared in a small role in The Odd Life of Timothy Green as Reggie and played the recurring role Ruben Marcado on the 2013 NBC drama Do No Harm.
In 2013, Miranda appeared in the episode "Bedtime Stories" (Season 9, Episode 11) on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Later that year, he submitted a six-song demo package to Walt Disney Animation Studios; in spring 2014, the studio hired him to help write the songs for its 2016 animated feature film, Moana. In 2014, he performed with comedy duo The Skivvies, and participated in This American Life at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on June 7, 2014 and broadcast on the radio on June 20, 2014, writing the music and lyrics for, and playing The Narrator in, the one-act 21 Chump Street: The Musical. Also in 2014, Miranda appeared in the Encores! revival of Tick, Tick... Boom! under the artistic direction of Jeanine Tesori. The show was directed by Oliver Butler. Miranda won a 2014 Emmy Award for co-composing (with Tom Kitt) the song "Bigger!", the opening number at the 67th Tony Awards in 2013.
In 2008, while on vacation, Miranda read Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton and, inspired by the book, wrote a rap about Hamilton that he performed for the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word, on May 12, 2009, accompanied by Alex Lacamoire. Miranda later said he spent a year writing the Hamilton song "My Shot", revising it countless times for every verse to reflect Alexander Hamilton's intellect. By 2012, Miranda was performing an extended set of pieces, based on the life of Hamilton, referred to as the Hamilton Mixtape; the New York Times called it "an obvious game changer".
Hamilton, a musical based on the Hamilton Mixtape, premiered off-Broadway at The Public Theater in January 2015, directed by Thomas Kail. Miranda wrote the book and score and starred as the title character. The show received highly positive reviews, and its engagement was sold out. Chernow and Miranda received the 2015 History Makers Award from the New York Historical Society for their work in creating the musical. The show began previews on Broadway in July 2015 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and officially opened on August 6, 2015, earning rave reviews. On the first night of Hamilton previews over 700 people lined up for lottery tickets.
Meanwhile, Miranda contributed music for the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), writing a song for the scene in Maz Kanata's Cantina, an homage to the classic Mos Eisley Cantina scene and song. On January 24, 2016, Miranda performed the offstage cameo role of Loud Hailer in the Broadway production of Les Misérables, fulfilling his childhood dream of being in the show, as it was the first production he ever saw on Broadway. On March 15, 2016, members of the cast of Hamilton performed at the White House and hosted workshops; Miranda performed freestyle rap from prompts held up by President Obama. In April 2016, Miranda and Jeremy McCarter published Hamilton: The Revolution, a book describing Hamilton's journey from conception to Broadway success and discussing the cultural revolution that permeates the show.
On April 24, 2016, on the TV show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, at the end of a segment about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, Miranda performed an emotional rap about allowing the island to restructure its debt. In May 2016, Miranda received an honorary Doctorate of the Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and gave the commencement speech. The same month, for his work in the role of Alexander Hamilton, Miranda received the Drama League Distinguished Performance Award. Miranda gave his last performance in Hamilton on July 9, 2016. He vowed to return to the show. A documentary about the creation of the show, Hamilton's America, featuring Miranda, premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 1, 2016 and first aired on PBS' Great Performances series on October 21, 2016.
From 2014 to 2016, Miranda collaborated with Opetaia Foa'i and Mark Mancina to write the music for Moana. He later explained that because he was so busy with those two projects, he turned down other projects "that would have distracted" him, but this served as an "ego check" as Hamilton became a hit. Miranda sings the song "We Know the Way" in the film. He also recorded a duet with Jordan Fisher of the song "You're Welcome", which is played over the film's end credits. Moana opened to positive reviews in November 2016 and was a box office hit. Miranda's songwriting work was praised by critics, and he received Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, and Academy Award nominations for the song "How Far I'll Go".
Miranda hosted Saturday Night Live on October 8, 2016; in July 2017, he received an Emmy nomination for his appearance. He is set to star in the Mary Poppins sequel Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall. He is expected to serve as creative producer on Lionsgate's film adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicle, along with a tie-in television series. Miranda is producing eleven songs set to be used in the upcoming Sony Pictures Animation film, Vivo, which is being directed by Kirk DeMicco. He is expected to voice Fenton Crackshell/Gizmoduck in the 2017 reboot of DuckTales. He is also negotiating with Disney concerning a live-action film remake of The Little Mermaid, for which he may co-write additional songs (with Alan Menken). However, in February 2017, Miranda told The New York Times that "We haven't formalized anything." As of July 2017, it has been confirmed he is working with Alan Menken.
Miranda married Vanessa Adriana Nadal, a high school friend, in 2010. At the wedding reception, Miranda, along with the wedding party, performed the Fiddler on the Roof song "To Life"; the video has been viewed more than five million times on YouTube. Nadal is a lawyer at the global law firm Jones Day. Miranda and Nadal's son Sebastian was born in 2014. According to a 2015 interview on the podcast Can I Pet Your Dog?, Miranda has a dog named Tobi. Miranda discovered that he is related to Residente and ILE of Calle 13 during a 2009 concert by the group in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Miranda was invited to perform. Backstage, the mother of Residente and ILE revealed their connection to Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, founder of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Miranda and Residente have since confirmed the relationship. In 2017, Miranda performed on the opening track of Residente's self-titled debut album.
Miranda received an honorary degree from Yeshiva University, in Washington Heights, Manhattan, in 2009. He is the youngest person to receive an honorary degree from that university. Former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, presented Miranda with the degree. In 2015, Miranda received a MacArthur "Genius" Award. In May of that year, he also received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Wesleyan. The following year, after a meeting with President Barack Obama, Miranda joined US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Charles Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic lawmakers to call for congressional action to back a Senate bill in Washington that would allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy and significantly ease its $70 billion debt burden.
Miranda, a fan of My Brother, My Brother and Me on the Maximum Fun podcast network, has appeared on the podcast as a "guestpert" and referenced the podcast in the Hamilton score. Miranda wrote new lyrics to the song "Fugue for Tinhorns", from the musical Guys and Dolls, called "Fugue for Brotherhorns", for the podcast's hosts to perform. Miranda has also referred to the podcast in his public appearances at the Grammy Awards and on Saturday Night Live. He is also a fan of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast on the Earwolf podcast network, on which he has appeared by telephone, and of the TV drama The West Wing, rapping a tribute to the show in 2017.2016: "Jabba Flow" from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2016: "Love Make the World Go Round" with Jennifer Lopez
2016: "What the World Needs Now Is Love" with Broadway for Orlando
2013: Narrator on audio recording of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
2017: Narrator and rapper on "Intro ADN / DNA", Residente, by Residente.
2015: 21 Chump Street
Among his numerous accolades, Miranda has won a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, two Grammys, an Emmy, and has been nominated for an Academy Award. He additionally was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 2015. In 2016, Time magazine included him in its annual Time 100 as one of the "Most Influential People in the World" and he received a star on the Puerto Rico Walk of Fame. On June 22, 2017, it was announced that Miranda would be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018.