Greek journalist, TV show hostess and actress Rika Vagiani has died. She was 56.

Vagiani had been undergoing cancer treatment for a while, and had been hospitalised a number of times over the last few months, something that only her close friends and relatives knew about.

News of her demise sparked a flood of tributes on social media, from colleagues and fans.

Born Marika Zoula in the Athens district of Pangrati in 1962, she was the daughter of journalist Odysseas Zoulas and Varvara Drakou. She coined her adopted surname of Vagiani by conjoining the first two letters of her mother’s name with the name of her stepfather, acclaimed sportswriter Giannis Diakogiannis, who raised her.

She started her acting career in 1979, during her studies at the National Theatre of Greece’s school of drama. She appeared on stage, film and television; her claim to fame was her participation in the now classic series To Minore tis Avgis, a drama set within the ’30s rebetiko culture.

During the ’80s she gradually abandoned her acting career to pursue a career as a journalist; she started out contributing to magazines, newspapers, radio and television, and by the late ’80s became the editor of Cosmopolitan. From the mid-90s she had a daily column in Apogevmatini newspaper, moving to Ethnos in 2005.

A seasoned TV presenter, she had worked with many stations, most notably Mega Channel and ERT, where she had been working from 1997 until 2012, presenting morning and variety shows.

Despite being a successful media personality, she took a break from her career to relocate to Perth, along with her husband Professor Nikolaos Stefanis and their son Odysseas.

During that time, Vagiani kept contributing to, and also wrote two children’s books, which have been translated into English.

She was known for her cheerful personality, vast knowledge of Greek culture, witty humour and sarcasm, and her signature irreverence towards conventional styles of journalism.

In a statement, the Athens Journalists’ Union (ESIEA) expressed its sympathy to her family.