Clearly the first character that was a positive role model for Maya was Mrs. Bertha Flowers, who manages to get Maya to open up and love herself after the rape she endured. This event occurs in Chapter Fifteen of this moving autobiography, which opens with the following paragraph:
For nearly a year, I sopped around the house, the Store, the school and the church, like an old biscuit, dirty and inedible. Then I met, or rather got to know, the lady who threw me my first life line.
It is of course Mrs. Bertha Flowers who has a massive transformational effect on Maya, helping her to see that she was not in fact the "old biscuit" that she thought she was and that she was special and loved. The simple act of inviting Maya over to her house and having tea with her and reading to her invests Maya with a new sense of self worth and helps her to see herself differently. Note what Maya says after she leaves Mrs. Flowers's house for the first time:
I was liked, and what a difference it made. I was respected not as Mrs. Henderson's grandchild or Bailey's sister but for being Marguerite Johnson... All I cared about was that she had made tea cookies for me and read to me from her favourite book. It was enough to prove that she liked me.
Thus it is that at a critical stage in her life, Maya is helped through her feelings of low self-esteem because of her rape through one of the first characters who acts as a positive role model and teaches her how to love herself and how to respect who she is as a black woman.