While at Universal, Ekberg caught the attention of legendary director and photographer Russ Meyer, who went on record numerous times to say she was the most beautiful woman he ever photographed and that her 40D bustline was the most ample in A list Hollywood history, dwarfing rivals Jayne Mansfield and the British actress Sabrina.Ekberg also delighted gossip columnists with her social life. She was linked to many famous men, and was given the nickname "The Iceberg" because of her mysterious demeanor.
The combination of a colourful private life and physique gave her appeal to gossip magazines such as Confidential and to the new type of men's magazine that proliferated in the 1950s. She soon became a major 1950s pin-up. In addition, Ekberg participated in publicity stunts. Famously, she admitted that an incident where her dress burst open in the lobby of London's Berkeley Hotel was pre-arranged with a photographer.