Lin-Manuel Miranda is the young and tenacious phenom behind the Broadway musical hit Hamilton. Never heard of it? You’re about to. It’s a hip hop musical about one of the U.S.’s founding fathers that is so popular, a national tour from Chicago to LA was just launched. Here’s how Miranda created an artistic empire with his pioneering music and writing style.
Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, grew up listening to an eclectic mix of music in his bilingual home.
His house was filled with albums in English and Spanish, from artists like Bruce Springsteen and The Beach Boys, to Tito Puente and Willie Colón. As a teenager, Miranda also fell in love with rap acts such as A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan and Notorious B.I.G.
Miranda’s cultural influences inspired his breakthrough musical, In the Heights.
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During his time as a college student at Wesleyan University, Miranda started working on a draft for a play called In the Heights. The musical was set in Washington Heights, the Dominican-American neighborhood in New York City. After graduating college, Miranda worked as an English teacher while he tried to get In The Heights off the ground. In 2008, In The Heights made its debut, bringing salsa dancing, bodegas and rap music to Broadway. It soon became a runaway hit, earning 13 Tony Award nominations and winning four, including Best Musical.
The best part? It featured lots of Latinos. Here’s a taste of In The Heights:
Wondering why a Puerto Rican dude plays a Dominican? Miranda said he wanted to stay true to Washington Heights : “It wouldn’t be a fair representation of Washington Heights if I were playing a Puerto Rican. All you can do is give the most honest portrayal you can. When I speak Spanish in the show, it’s with a Dominican accent.”
After the success of In the Heights, Miranda got the idea for his next musical on the beach.
We’re not making this up. The popularity of In The Heights led to several acting and writing gigs for Miranda, including appearances on the shows House M.D. and Modern Family. When Miranda made time to go on vacation, he found inspiration for his next play, Hamilton, while reading an Alexander Hamilton biography in a hammock. Under blue skies. This IS the American Dream, people.
Back in 2009 when Miranda’s star was rising, he dropped a few flows in front of President Obama. He was invited to the White House to perform during the White House Poetry Jam that year. His performance included the opening song to what would go on to become Hamilton the musical.
Since then, Hamilton has made its debut. Not only is it insanely popular on Broadway… the soundtrack is also a hit.
Miranda knows his hip hop, so he had Questlove and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of The Roots executive produce the soundtrack to Hamilton.It’s more than a musical about history – it’s making history. The lyrics and music are pushing Drake and Fetty Wap to runner-up positions. Who would have thought a musical would be the TOP RAP ALBUM?!
In Hamilton, Miranda reminds everyone that America’s “founding fathers” were also immigrants. Miranda opens Hamilton with these lines:
“How does a bastard, orphan / son of a whore and a Scotsman / dropped into the middle of a / forgotten spot in the Caribbean / by Providence, impoverished, in squalor / grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
And people are loving his unconventional take on history. Hamilton sold out even before it hit Broadway (it made almost $30 million in advanced ticket sales). With his impressive chops in acting, writing and singing, we’re looking forward to seeing even more triumphs for this modern Renaissance man.
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Julio Torres may have just achieved next level respect and stardom because all he had to do to get thee Lin-Manuel Miranda to play the voice of a tiny cactus in his upcoming HBO special was DM him. During an interview on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, Torres hinted at the presence of some big-name cameos in his HBO comedy special, My Favorite Shapes.
The most obvious cameo that Torres could think of would be the infamous Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter, composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda playing a “self-conscious cactus.” Of course. Torres has had a successful career behind the screen thus far. Born in El Salvador, Torres began writing for Saturday Night Live, where he initially met Lin-Manuel Miranda. His most recent claim to fame was his starring role alongside Fred Armisen in the HBO series Los Espookys.
“We were lucky that some really great actors are voicing the inner spirits of some of those objects because we just needed that,” he told Fallon.
“The role of the cactus went to Lin-Manuel Miranda. I DM’ed him, being like, ‘Can you just be this cactus? This feels like it should be you.’” Wow. That’s all it takes, huh? We love Miranda for just saying ‘yes.’
“’Cause it’s like, can you think of anyone else who would play a little cactus trapped in a little glass container?” Pues, can you?
In the teaser trailer for the comedy special, we get a glimpse of the very cactus that Miranda is set to play. “This next shape that I need to show you,” Torres tells the audience through a microphone at his seat, “This is me coming in late for a meeting and immediately chiming in.”
We can’t wait to hear what the cactus iteration of Lin-Manuel Miranda is going to say.
The Puerto Rican Hamilton creator and star is on vacation in Europe right now, so we haven’t heard his comment on the new break of his latest role. Miranda and Torres have worked together in the past. Torres’ rise to fame began as a writer for Saturday Night Live. Torres wrote the sketch “Diego Calls His Mom” for Miranda’s episode as a host.
“Lin-Manuel is the lil cactus…. awwww,” tweets one fan. Why is the prickliest side of Lin-Manuel Miranda the cutest side we might ever see? Call it an obsession with succulents or just an obsession with literally anything Miranda chooses to do. Take your pick, no me importa.
Right now, fans are just tickled that Lin-Manuel Miranda appears to have no ego whatsoever.
Miranda has won a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, three Grammys, an Emmy, and two Olivier Awards. He’s also been been nominated for an Academy Award. He’s a GOAT, and yet, he’s also down to be the tiniest of cacti “trapped in a little glass container.”
“He solved the problem,” Torres said of Miranda’s willingness to play the tiny cactus.
Torres asked Fallon if he could really think of anyone else that could play the role of the cactus, to which Fallon replied, “I mean, don’t even make me thing of that. Of course not, no. Lin-Manuel Miranda!” Torres agreed–“He solved the problem.
Torres is the Salvadoran precioso you *would* want to spend time with meeting all his favorite shapes.
HBO describes the Los Espookys comedian’s new special as a worthwhile peek into his “fantastical stories and humorous anecdotes.” We can expect to meet “a plexiglass square, an oval that wishes he were a circle, a self-conscious cactus, and a Ferrero Rocher chocolate.”
We’re curious to see how Lin-Manuel Miranda could ever lead us to believe he could be “self-conscious.” This will be the truest test of his acting abilities. Just kidding, just kidding.
Tune into HBO August 10 at 10:30 p.m. for what’s looking to be an interesting night with Julio Torres.
Expect Julio Torres to be dressed in a glitter suit on stage with a glass conveyer belt shepherding strange objects his way. The teaser trailer gave us a taste of what we were expecting to be Torres dryly musing on his “favorite shapes.” Now, we know that there’s going to be some serious stardom in the shape of a cactus, and many more cameos to look forward to.
The Medellin Cartel dominated the global trade of cocaine for a good part of the 1980s. Besides its influence in shaping the drug cartels as we know them today, the Colombian traffickers have had an enormous impact on the cultural, political and social lives of Latin America. Sure, when he hear “Medellin Cartel” we immediately think of Pablo Escobar (and even more so since Netflix released its highly acclaimed show Narcos). However, there is another figure of mythical qualities that has come out of cartel lore: Griselda Blanco, The Godmother. Equally vilified and revered, Blanco’s story has recently caught the attention of Hollywood and shows about her rapid rise in the echelons of criminality has attracted stares of the caliber of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Lopez.
This is what you need to know about Blanco:
1. Griselda Blanco Restrepo was born in Cartagena, Colombia
Credit: Instagram. @eyecandibaby
She was born on February 15, 1943. She and her mom moved to Medellin when Griselda was just three-years-old. Griselda survived in the streets by being a pickpocket and allegedly even by kidnapping other children when she was as young as 13. She left home when she was 16. Biographers claim that her mother’s boyfriend tried to sexually abuse her, so she left the household.
2. She is a pop culture icon
Credit: Instagram. @honkeykonger
She is an icon of rap culture. The Game, Pusha, and Jacki-O have all dedicated lyrics to her. Lil Kim created the alter ego Kimmy Blanco as a tribute. Nicki Minaj sings: “Drug lord, Griselda/ I used to move weight through Delta”.
Some people carry her around everywhere they go. Literally.
Credit: Instagram. @kiko_tatoos
Just look at this hyperrealistic tat!
And she has inspired some pretty out there nail styles!
Credit: Instagram. @nailsyulieg
Blanco’s fandom reaches the US: this nails were styled by Yulie G., a nail technician working in Ontario, California.
3. At her height, she was one of the richest women in the world
Credit: Instagram. @michaelcorleoneblanco
She was a billionaire who made her fortune during the Miami Drug War in the late 1970s. Her network of operations reached from Florida to California, and brought in $80 million dollars per month! There were various attempts on her life when she lived in Florida, so she moved to California.
4. She named her son after the Corleone family from The Godfather movie trilogy
Credit: Instagram. @michaelcorleoneblanco
Yes: Michael Corleone Blanco. He has a clothesline and is a social media influencer, where he openly discusses having grown up in the world of global narcotics trafficking. Griselda went to prison in 1985, but she continued to run her business with the help of her son Michael. Griselda was released in 2004 and deported to Medellin.
5. By the way: Michael Corleone Blanco is also a reality TV star
Credit: Instagram. @michaelcorleoneblanco
Yes, he stars in Cartel Crew, a new VH1 reality show in which he comes to terms with the thug life he has known since he was a little kid growing up in Miami, where his mom controlled a millionaire flow of cocaine to the United States.
6. Michael’s show, Cartel Crew, has been VERY controversial
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But Blanco defends the show, saying: “We are not trying to glorify anything. We’re just trying to move on with our lives and make our own means in a legitimate way. … We’re not showing the past, we’re showing the present and the future.” Ver para creer, mijo!
7. She has been played on the screen by Catherine Zeta-Jones
Credit: Instagram. @lifetimetv
Catherine Zeta-Jones, who had already played a dealer in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, played Griselda Blanco in a Lifetime movie. She said about the character: “It was so liberating. I didn’t want to play a caricature of her and do like a Mrs. Doubtfire’s fat suit. I wanted to play her from the inside out. Her attitude was much more than whether I didn’t wear mascara or lipstick. She had a power and a strength of character that of all the things that I do not relate to, I do relate to that. I do admire that in her. It was, where are the cracks in her? I don’t want to make every one like her. I don’t like her”. Damn, that’s deep, eh!
8. And Mexican starlet Ana Serradilla
Credit: Instagram. @teamserradillard
Serradilla is the lead actress in the Televisa-Univision coproduction La viuda negra, which is an adaptation of the book La patrona de Pablo Escobar, written by José Guarnizo. The series had two seasons that ran from 2014 until 2016.
9. And Jennifer Lopez is starring, and possibly directing, in a new movie
Credit: Instagram. @bossipofficial
J-Lo told Variety: “I’ve been forever fascinated by the story of Griselda Blanco and jumped at the chance to play her on-screen. She is all things we look for in storytelling and dynamic characters — notorious, ambitious, conniving, chilling. In a genre dominated by legendary kingpins, I’m eager to shine a spotlight on this anti-hero and excited to partner with STX for the third time so we can bring this compelling, complicated story to life.”
10. Her life is the stuff of underworld legends
Credit: Instagram. @ceritadanmitos
She was one of the most creative smugglers in the height of the Colombian trade. As El Pais recalls: “Griselda began her cocaine business at a time when Escobar was just an apprentice smuggler. In the Antioquia neighborhood they say that there was a very famous shoemaker called Toño, who the godmother once instructed: “Toño, I need you to take these shoes and this powder in the heels. And afterwards, I need you to do the same with my husband’s shoes.”
11. Griselda Blanco was also known as “The Black Widow”
Credit: Instagram. @befaoner1
Blanco’s romantic partners suffered terrible fates. People reports: “Generally, things didn’t turn out well for Blanco’s paramours. She supposedly murdered her first lover as a teenager and had her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, killed a few years after divorcing him. She shot her second husband, Alberto Bravo – who was instrumental as a partner in her rise to power – herself, in the parking lot of a Bogota nightclub. Another husband, Dario Sepulveda, was killed in 1983”. These events led her to be called “Black Widow”, a species of spider famous for their mating habits. As LiveScience explains: ” black widows get their name because females carry out sexual cannibalism after mating. The female often kills and eats the male, which explains the males’ short lifespans”
12. Some women feel inspired by her story: they see her as a strong woman, a female Robin Hood
Credit: Instagram. @eyecandibaby
Some Latino women see a role model in Blanco: there is no denying that sexism permeates the lives of many Latinas. Blanco fended for herself and had it all: money, power and a family.
13. This 1997 mugshot is one of the most famous in history
Credit: Instagram. @themobmuseum
Just like the Pablo Escobar and the Al Capone mugshots, this image of Griselda will go down in the annals of mob history.
14. But things are not always black and white: like Pablo Escobar, Griselda Blanco is remembered in a shade of gray
Credit: Instagram. @la_vida_es_mi_maestro_1967
Drug lords are vilified by the media and by governments but are sometimes loved by people. This is due to the charity work that they do in some vulnerable communities and by what they represent” rags-to-riches stories that make some people believe that anything is possible. Of course, this brings many ethical questions: does the end justify the means? Is the blood of hundreds worth it?
And some people visit her grave
Credit: Instagram. @deckermen7
It is a sort of pilgrimage for some Colombians who admire the fact that she reached the top in a tough and merciless business. As reported by the Spanish newspaper El Pais upon her dead: “Two days later her body was placed in a casket decorated in golden Arabesque designs. She was buried in the Jardines de Montesacro cemetery – the same resting place as that of Pablo Escobar. Two buses filled with neighborhood kids from Antioquia – the suburb in which Griselda worked as a prostitute and drug dealer, and won a reputation as a husband killer but also where she passed around gifts to needy children at Christmas – came to pay their respects”.
15. She was murdered aged 69 in Medellin
Credit: Instagram. @ogabel
Griselda met her fate on the night of September 3, 2012. She received two bullets fired from a motorcycle. She was buying meat at the butcher’s when a man walked towards her, shot her twice in the head and left.
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