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Maya Rudolph channels her mom, singer Minnie Riperton, in 'SNL' photos

Riperton passed away at age 31 in 1979 from cancer when Rudolph was only 6 years old.
/ Source: TODAY

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially when you’re paying homage to your mother.

Last night, Maya Rudolph, a “Saturday Night Live” alum, hosted the iconic sketch comedy’s show first episode back since February. Each host gets their own set of bumper photos and eagle-eyed fans noticed that the shots seemed awfully familiar. In the photos, the 48-year-old actor seemingly recreated two album covers from her mother, the late Minnie Riperton.

In one shot, Rudolph is standing in front of a peach background donning a pair of denim overalls while she grins at the camera holding a melting ice cream cone. In a side-by-side comparison shared to journalist Sandra E. Garcia’s Twitter, the similarity to Riperton’s album cover for “Perfect Angel” was uncanny.

A second photo shows Rudolph perched on a velvet chair in front of a cerulean backdrop donning an ethereal white dress and matching white floral crown, channeling her mother from the cover of her album “Adventures in Paradise.”

The official “SNL” Twitter account retweeted a fan who shared mother-daughter side-by-side of the photo that resembled the “Adventures in Paradise” album cover. The tweet read, “Obsessed with all of Maya’s bumpers but the tribute to her Mom was GORG.”

Riperton died on July 12, 1979, at age 31 from cancer according to her obituary in the New York Times. Rudolph was only 6 when her mother, a beloved singer from the 70s, passed away. Riperton was renowned for her five‐and‐a‐half octave range and whistle tone. She is perhaps best known for her 1975 single "Lovin' You" that peaked at number one on the Billboard 100. The song was from her second album, "Perfect Angel," that Rudolph revisited with her "SNL" photos.

Photo of Minnie RIPERTON
Posed portrait of Minnie Riperton with flowers in her hair.Redferns

"It's amazing to me, although not surprising, that it is such an iconic song and record only because it was the debut of this special quality that my mother had and people just were blown away," Rudolph said when asked about the legacy of that album during a 2017 interview with uDiscover Music. "So it was really there, her big introduction to a lot of people."

Rudolph said the album is the "perfect time capsule" of her mom and that it sounds like her childhood.

"Over the course of my life, I've become like a receptor to the world that people that want to tell her how great she was and how much the song affected their lives and how much you know her music meant to them and how special her voice was," she said. "I'm the person by association and it's fascinating."

"For many years of my life it was so hard and I was just like it's too much, it's too much but then I grew up and then you know I took such enormous pride in knowing that she really stands out as this individual," she added. "This one-of-a-kind gem of a human being and of a recording artist and of a performer and really of a woman."

Minnie Riperton, Richard Rudolph, Maya Rudolph and Marc Rudolph
Singer Minnie Riperton, her husband Richard Rudolph and children Maya Rudolph and Marc Rudolph in December 1978 in Los Angeles, California.Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

It is not lost on Rudolph that her mother died at a young age, and she has reconciled this as she has gotten older.

"My mom was 31 when she died and I'm 45," she reflected in 2017. "I'm so much older than she was and I've had so much time to really process all the information I didn't really want to talk about or think about the old days. But like the amount that she did and the time that she did it in and the impact that she had is astonishing, and yet makes perfect sense for her ability because she was just special."

The “SNL” alum broke out her sketch comedy chops during last night’s episode of the show, bringing her signature humor and wit back to Studio 8H for her second hosting gig since departing the show in 2007. The “Bridesmaids” star has made multiple appearances throughout the years following her exit from "SNL," most recently joining her former castmate Kristen Wiig during the monologue in December 2020 in addition to portraying Vice President Kamala Harris as well as TODAY’s Kristen Welker during the presidential debates.

Some of Rudolph’s highlights from last night’s episode include the reprisal of her Beyoncé impression during a spoof of the popular YouTube interview series “Hot Ones” hosted by Sean Evans in which guests eat a series of 10 chicken wings, each with hot sauces that become increasingly spicier.

Rudolph also made an appearance as vice president Harris for a sketch centered around the “Kamala Harris Unity Seder” where she and her husband, second-gentleman Doug Emhoff (portrayed by “SNL” alum Martin Short) hosted a Passover dinner.

Attendees at the dinner included Ted Cruz, portrayed by Aidy Bryant, President Joe Biden, portrayed by Alex Moffat, as well as Harris’ step-daughter, Ella Emhoff, portrayed by Chloe Fineman.