What is a Legacy: How Lin-Manuel Miranda Uses Art and Fame for Change

Since the success of his pop culture phenomenon Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s career has led him from the musical theatre world to other achievements in the greater entertainment industry. Miranda is writing music for five feature films, executive producing and directing three tv shows and movies, and starred in Mary Poppins Returns. Despite the gain of fame and endless projects he has on his plate, Miranda still finds the time to use his fame and art to enact change. While other celebrities may choose to use their fame for personal gains such as sponsorships or celebrity endorsements, Miranda has chosen to rise up (pun 100% intended) as an activist-artist to show the world how best to use your privilege (in Miranda’s case his fame). While there are many examples of how Lin-Manuel Miranda has used his art to enact change, here are the top five.

 

Puerto Rico

While Miranda has repeatedly stated he will never run for office, the Puerto Rican-American has been politically active, most notably on behalf of Puerto Rico. He met with former President Obama and other politicians in 2016 to speak out in favor of debt relief for Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Maria struck in 2017 and the US government failed in its responsibility to provide its territory the relief it needed, Lin Manuel-Miranda stepped up as an activist for his home island. In December 2017, Miranda released a new single called Almost Like Praying, using proceeds to help the Hispanic Federation raise $22 million for rescue efforts and disaster relief. And yet, almost two years later Puerto Rico, is still struggling to rebuild. In order to raise money for Puerto Rico's reconstruction, Lin-Manuel reprised his role of Alexander Hamilton in a production of Hamilton in Puerto Rico for three weeks in January 2019. All the revenue from the performances will benefit the Flamboyan Arts Fund and the Hispanic Federation organizations dedicated to helping Puerto Rico thrive in the long run and support itself. 

 

Hamildrops

After the success of The Hamilton Mixtape, Lin-Manuel Miranda announced the release of more Hamilton-related song content called "The Hamildrops." Instead of releasing all the songs together on one album, one new piece was released monthly from December 2017 through December 2018. The sales from “Found/Tonight” (a mashup of Hamilton’s “The Story of Tonight” and Dear Evan Hansen’s "You Will Be Found"were donated to the March For Our Lives Initiative. “A Forgotten Spot (Olvidado)” was released in September 2018 to remind the public that Puerto Rico still recovering a year later. 

 

Prizeo Campaigns

Prizeois an online fundraising platform that enables clients to mobilize their fan bases to raise funds and awareness for their chosen causes. Lin-Manuel Miranda capitalized onHamilton’s popularity with a record-breaking series of digital sweepstakes and auction fundraising campaigns to offer fans all over the world the chance to experience the groundbreaking cultural phenomenonHamilton: An American Musicalwith Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. According to Prizeo, Miranda’s six campaigns (not including the two campaigns to see Hamiltonon opening and closing night in Puerto Rico) have raised more than $7 million dollars and cultivated over 373,000 donations for charitable organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Hispanic Federation.

 

A Better Broadway Community

From his very 1st Broadway musical, In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda has fought for a better Broadway community for all. In The Heights tells the story of the people living in the Latino New York City neighborhood who face raising rent prices among other effects of gentrification. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote In The Heights because he saw the lack of stories about his people on Broadway. He also struggled in the theatre to find lead roles that he and other male latinos could fit, so he wrote his own musical. In the casting call for Hamilton, Miranda specifically asked for “non-white actors” to audition to give more actors of color starring roles in musicals. Lin-Manuel Miranda defends his choice by stating that he wanted a cast to be representative of the face of America today as well as the fact that the people on stage are the best singers and actors for the hip-hop/rap genre. In his own words, Miranda says the choice to cast non-white actors was as much an artistic choice as a political one and wanted to portray the story of America from its historical past through the eyes and voices of America now. Additionally, people of color often get passed up for big roles in general. There are hundreds of shows for white casts, so Miranda wrote a show to give people of color the opportunity to shine. 

 

Not only did Lin-Manuel Miranda advocate for a better Broadway community in terms of representation on stage, but he also fights to make theatre accessible for all. Experiencing live theatre is a privileged form of entertainment, especially seeing a show on Broadway where the costs include not only the expensive ticket but the transportation, lodging and food if one is not lucky enough to live in New York City. While it may seem a bit hypocritical for Hamilton’s creator to advocate making Broadway more accessible as tickets for Hamilton sell for more than $1,000 on the resale market, Miranda has been against scalpers and the resale market from day one. He has not only published a New York Times article pushing for ticket sellers to fight bots, but has been an integral part of Ticketmaster’s #VerifiedFanPresale. This presale ensures that actual people and fans--not resellers--get first dibs on tickets. Hamilton’s lottery also gives away 50 seats for $10 apiece every performance. #EduHam is Hamilton’s educational outreach program. With #EduHam students in 11th grade from Title I schools (where a majority of students come from low-income families) get to see Hamilton for only $10. The national program allows more than 100,000 students to see interactive matinees. Not only does the performance have a backstage tour and cast Q&A afterward, but the program also has an in-class component that expands the theatre-going experience to a month-long program. Students read and dissect primary historical sources then create original pieces that they perform on stage. The reason behind #EduHam is simple: it shows that learning can be fun. Miranda knows that not all the students will go into theatre, saying, “I do believe firmly that approaching history in this way ... forces you to reckon with what you’re going to do with your life. And I think it forces you to confront what it is to live a life of meaning ... whether that’s theater or whether that’s architecture or whether that’s medicine or biology." 

 

Twitter Positivity

While news outlets had moved on from spotlighting Hurricane Maria's devastation in Puerto Rico, Miranda used his Twitter account of 2.6 million followers to force America to not forget Puerto Rico. Weeks after Hurricane Maria had passed over the island, Puerto Rico still had its essential services knocked out. Miranda tweeted the appeal of a person whose mother needed dialysis and got the machine to her. He also retweeted photos of people who were trying to get in contact with their loved ones stuck on the island and requests from people in need of a place after fleeing Puerto Rico. On a more lighter note, Miranda uses Twitter to promote a positive use for social media. Along with the charity work he promotes, the music playlists he shares, as well as the open forum he creates for artists to share their work, Lin's Twitter page is a source for all things good and pure in the world. Perhaps most famous is Lin’s Good Morning and Good Night Tweets which serve as a constant source of motivation and inspiration for many. Most mornings, he tweets out thoughtful and inspirational affirmations to start the day off inspired. In the evening he will follow up with an equally encouraging tweet that circles back to the morning tweet. 

 

While other stars may on their box office wealth and perhaps do some charity work for good PR, Lin-Manuel Miranda dedication to using fame to give back comes from the Miranda’s family tradition of service and advocacy. From an early age, Lin got dragged to activist and philanthropic events at the local nonprofits, the school board meetings, campaigning door to door.  Now thanks to the fame Hamilton brought him, Miranda recognizes the greater importance of activism as he puts it himself he is now “just private citizen with a bigger megaphone.” One of the most powerful lyrics of Hamilton is: “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” While Miranda will certainly be remembered as the genius artist who created Hamilton, perhaps the more important legacy is his role as an activist. However, regardless of which legacy endures, Miranda is a living, breathing call to action and proof of what you can accomplish when you don’t throw away your shot.