Ariana Cleo is the founder of Ari Life, a wellness agency that produces experiences based on conscious living, sustainability, and female empowerment. The Colorado native, New York City resident, and sometimes-model advocates for a lifestyle that minimizes waste and impact on the planet. She is rarely without her three-year-old dachshund, Linus. They even go to acupuncture together.
What do you do, Ariana?
I have a company it’s called Ari Life, and we produce experiences to empower women through wellness. We take brands and we integrate them with influencers and press in a very intimate and experiential manner. And we’ll associate their feeling of well-being and empowerment with that brand. It’s very important that they have the same ethos that we believe in, which is about conscious living, sustainability, and female empowerment. For example, Bumble is a client of mine. They brought me on board because they wanted to tap into the wellness community and show that they don’t just empower women in dating—they empower women in business with their BFF app. I’m also a model.
“I believe Linus was a child of mine in a past life.”
Did you have any dogs as a child?
I love that question because I don’t think I was ever without an animal. When I was a baby, a thermostat or something in my crib overheated, and my bedroom was smoking and on fire. We had a Boxer at the time, and the Boxer went to my parents’ room and dragged my mom out of bed to my crib and saved my life.
So, animals have been a life-changing, life-saving experience for me. My whole life, I had tons of bunnies, and hamsters, and fish, and snails, and dogs—you name it. If I could put it in my playhouse, I probably had it. I grew up with a playhouse that had its own garden in Colorado, and my neighbors had goats and chickens and horses.
So, how did Linus come into your life?
I would always walk passed this pet store in Chelsea, and I remembered that there was a puppy in the window maybe five months ago.
I went in and I asked, “Do you still have that dachshund for adoption from five months ago?” Normally, dogs aren’t for sale in pet stores by six months old, and at a pet store, usually they euthanize them by that time. But they still had him. I picked him up, he sat on my lap, and just sprawled over me. Every inch of his body that could touch me, touched me. I had just that connection—that soul connection. I’ve had many animals my entire life, but I believe that Linus is my one gift from the universe, that’s my one special soul. And beg borrow or steal, I was like, I am not leaving this store without this dog.
And my other dog at the time hated Linus. So when he ended up passing, we actually saw a dog medium. And the dog medium made comments about how he was like, “We never needed Linus, but I’m glad we have him now. And I never liked him,” and other stuff. So it’s funny, because dogs have their own personalities, but yeah, he really was just this accident that I embraced and loved and cherished.
Why did you name him Linus?
I was Skyping my family and—women, we’re just such tribal creatures. When you have an idea, you want to chitchat and create an open forum. I called my mom and my sisters and I said, “I’m getting a dog, I need help with the name”. He was very docile looking and he’d never seen the sun because he spent six months living in a pet store. So his nose was pink and his paws were pink. We came across just in going through hundreds of names, came across Linus. Just recently I realized, people call me Ari which means Lion. And someone goes, “Oh it’s like the Lion and the Lioness.” Linus, Lioness.
What’s a typical day for you and Linus?
We wake up with the morning light and Linus gives me kisses. It is magical. I just try to get out of the house as quick as possible. We walk to our favorite coffee shop, which is Three Seat Espresso. Linus likes a sunny-side-up egg, but I don’t give him a sunny-side-up every day, because I don’t want him to be too privileged. I get my coffee, and he gets his egg, and we sit and have a chat with the neighbors, and socialize. Then, usually we probably have meetings starting at 10 am, or we’re on set at 9am, and kind of go from place to place to place and Linus just comes along. If I’m going to a meeting, Linus comes with. If I’m going to acupuncture, Linus lays on my side, and when they stick in the needles he just kind of shimmies on over and then shimmies on back.
There’s been speaking engagements that I’ve done at Columbia, and Linus has patted my arm while I was giving a speech. So I integrate him as much as possible into my life. I really believe that that’s the joy of having him a part of my life, bringing him everywhere, by having him as my companion.
He’s such a lucky dog. As a woman in the wellness business, what’s your take on dog wellness?
I’m really glad you asked that because that’s extremely important to me. First, getting a dog means doing extensive research on dog food. Dog food is one of the dirtiest products you can buy. Plastic has been found in dog food—it’s a waste product. So, one of the reasons that cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs is because I believe the food that we’re giving them has such low integrity. So, I worked really hard to research all of these different products that had high integrity, high nutrition, and were also sustainable. I eat a plant-based diet, so I wanted to figure what I could feed my animal that would be sustainable and nutritious. So I feed him Honest Kitchen—the Zeal, which has wild cod in it.
It’s all human-grade food. So you could eat it. I wouldn’t want to—it smells very fishy and awkward, but Linus loves it. It’s important to have something whole food-based. And that’s the same reason why I don’t like the idea of a kibble, because it doesn’t feel like high-integrity food.
In terms of substances, I think CBD is a great intense anti-inflammatory for dogs. I used it religiously with my other dogs who’ve had spine disease. It reduces inflammation in the body and increases serotonin levels. In terms of products, I liked the Kin+Kind Charcoal Dog Shampoo. A lot of dog shampoos also have a lot of chemicals in them. Our skin absorbs about 70% of what we put on it, and our skin is our first line of defense.
Linus likes a sunny-side-up egg, but I don’t give him a sunny-side-up every day, because I don’t want him to be too privileged.
Do you and Linus have a favorite line of dog treats?
I like Sojos Good Dog Treats. They’re small and they usually just have a few ingredients. They’re great for training, too. I grew up making my own dog treats, but I don’t have time for that as an entrepreneur. And just like you would with shampoo or something that you’re going to put onto your body, just read the ingredients. And if you don’t know what an ingredient is, then don’t put it in your body.
What are your favorite healthy go-tos in New York City?
I love WTHN for acupuncture, Chinese medicine. I love Shapehouse; you sit in a bed and sweat out toxins. HigherDOSE is great for something similar. If you want a workout class and you want something really meditative and healing, Humming Puppy is lovely. I feel like I used to be really focused on high-impact, high-intensity workouts as a wellness ritual. And then I hurt my back and stepped back into my body and focused on wellness practices that are based in regeneration.
My favorite restaurant is abcV, which is this gorgeous vegetarian restaurant. It’s phenomenal, I recommend you get the dosa with the avocado and sprouts, and don’t forget the spicy sauce. It’s like a little secret sauce that they make and you have to ask for it. I love Juice Press—I go pretty much every day. I bring my own jar and have them fill it up with a smoothie or a soup. I think it’s really important, especially as a New Yorker, because we’re always on the go, to have spots that are accessible. I love Felix Roasting, which we took photos at. They make their own nut milk, which is really amazing. Three Seat Espresso, like I said I go to every day.
“We wake up with the morning light and Linus gives me kisses. It is magical.”
By the way, where’s your dog tee from, the one that was photographed by Vogue Nippon?
Tell us about Linus’ personality.
Yeah, so most of the time he’s super inordinately calm. I basically see him as Xanax. When he’s with me, he’s just so happy to be touching me and so engulfed with my love that as long as he’s touching me, he will be passed out. But then sometimes he gets really excited. Like when he’s walking down the street, he has a little pep in his step. So, he gets really excited like walking to Three Seat Espresso in the morning, because he knows that he could potentially get an egg. Or if he thinks I’m leaving the house, he’s like, “Mom, I’m going with you. Mom, I’m coming with you, right?”
I love that.
He feels my energy and he adapts to it. If I am feeling really upset or nervous, he becomes more nurturing. If he feels that if I’m safe, he becomes more independent. Or when he feels really safe in his space, then he’ll leave me and prance around and gage the situation. If he doesn’t feel safe or he doesn’t feel that I feel safe, he comes back to me. And in the same way, if I’m in conflict with another individual, even if they are my boyfriend, my best friend, or my mom, he won’t touch them. When I’m in a loving situation with them, then he’ll migrate back to them.
How do you identify with Linus then?
I can’t say this about any other dog that I’ve had, but I believe Linus was a child of mine in a past life. So to me, he feels like part of me, like a child. He definitely is a human soul—he’s not just a dog. I’ve had dogs that I kind of felt were just dogs. He really is a little human living in a little nine-pound dachshund body.
Photography by Tayler Smith