In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, "Good Morning America" presents "On Their Shoulders," a series featuring newsmakers, actors and musical artists who share tributes to those who paved the way for them.
It's never a dull day at the office for Eva Pilgrim.
One minute she's covering a breaking news story for ABC News, and the next she's co-anchoring the weekend edition of "Good Morning America."
Pilgrim had dreams of becoming a reporter one day, but it wasn't until she was in middle school and saw female Asian American journalists such as Juju Chang and Ann Curry on television that she realized her dream could become a reality.
"When you start to look at what women look like on television, it was hard to be a girl who looked like me and find someone who looks like them," Pilgrim shared.
Pilgrim's mother, who is Korean, immigrated from South Korea with Eva and Eva's American-born father when Eva was a baby.
"There weren't that many half-Asian women on television when I was a little girl," Pilgrim said. "I grew up in a town where everybody looked so very different from me, so for me seeing those women on TV, it wasn't just, 'Oh, I can do that job,' but, 'Oh, women like me exist in other places than where I live.'"
"That was inspiring in its own way."
Learning from her mother's 'fearlessness'
One of Pilgrim's biggest role models is her own mother, who moved from South Korea with her family in what Pilgrim said was her "pursuit of the all-American dream."
"Seeing those women on TV, it wasn't just, 'Oh, I can do that job,' but, 'Oh, women like me exist in other places than where I live."
"If she wants to do something, she just does it," Pilgrim said.
She was grateful for what she called her mother's "fearlessness," which helped her conquer her own fears.
"Having that constant push -- and not in the way that failure was going to be a bad thing if you didn't succeed, but the adventure of seeing what happens as you get there -- was a big part of the fun of it," Pilgrim said.
"Having that as my mother, this crazy woman, is a huge part of why I think I was able to do this."
Pilgrim said her mother has not only become a fun travel buddy, but she's remained a positive influence in her life as someone who keeps her grounded.
"My mother has always been very loving," Pilgrim said, "but part of that love was a reality and understanding that reality that you're actually living in."
Finding a mentor in Juju Chang
Another woman whom Pilgrim said she "stands on the shoulders of" is ABC News' Juju Chang.
The "Nightline" co-anchor started her career at ABC News as a desk assistant and eventually became a producer for "World News Tonight." Like Pilgrim, Chang immigrated from South Korea with her family when she was a baby.
"She proved that people of any background could achieve their dreams with drive and determination," Pilgrim said of Chang.
Pilgrim looked up to Chang when she saw her on her TV screen growing up, and now she considers her a caring mentor whom she gets to greet in the hallways of ABC News.
"I love Juju," Pilgrim said. "If I have questions about anything, I will email Juju. I will go to lunch with Juju. I will sit up in her office and ask her questions, and I know I'm not the only one who does that."
"She has that very Korean-mom 'I must take care of everything, everyone' kind of way about her," Pilgrim said.
Pilgrim also values how she and Chang share a similar upbringing because of their Korean backgrounds.
"Being able to sort of come from that same place, we understand what it is to talk about the things that are going on in South Korea and North Korea that are now making international news, and how that affects us," Pilgrim said of events that continue to affect their families.
Pioneers in TV news
Other pioneering female journalists whom Pilgrim credits include award-winning storytellers like Lisa Ling, who has covered hard-hitting stories for CNN and worked as a co-host on ABC's "The View."
"Lisa Ling's courage and passion for storytelling has broken barriers for Asian American women in journalism," Pilgrim said.
Pilgrim also credits industry veteran Ann Curry, who Pilgrim said "has made a name for herself in the 40 years that she has worked in journalism," from working as a co-anchor on NBC's "Today" to leading her own series on PBS.
"I honor these women. I respect these women. I am grateful for these women," Pilgrim said.
So what is Pilgrim's advice to young female journalists who look up to her?
"Try, try, try until you fail. If you keep failing, try again," she shared. "And one person's opinion isn't the definitive for who you are and how successful you will or won't be in your career."
"It's about finding the place that will nurture and grow you the most, to become what it is [you want to be]," Pilgrim said.
Editor's note: This was originally published on May 23, 2019.