Point of No Return: How 1980s Hitmakers Exposé Endured to Become One of the Most Successful Girl Groups of All Time
Only one girl group since The Supremes has managed to score seven consecutive Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The chart queens in question are not TLC, Destiny’s Child, or The Bangles, all of whom placed in the Top 5 on Billboard’s 2017 Top 10 Girl Groups Of All Time list. Instead, the distinction belongs to #8 on that list, Exposé, a Miami-formed dance-pop outfit that’s largely been forgotten, despite its incredible run of hits.
Before splitting up in 1995, Exposé notched a total of eight Top 10 singles, including the monster ballad “Seasons Change,” which reached No. 1 in February 1988. These hits were spread out over three albums, the first of which, 1987’s Exposure, went triple platinum. While they dabbled in numerous styles, including adult-contemporary ballads and thumping house tracks, Exposé are primarily known as practitioners of Latin freestyle, a type of '80s club music characterized by syncopated electro-funk drums, sticky synth riffs, moody minor-key chord progressions, and hyper-dramatic lyrics about falling in and out of love.
Miami Sound Machine
To this day, Exposé are huge in freestyle nostalgia circles, but they haven’t enjoyed the same enduring mainstream popularity as groups like Destiny’s Child or The Supremes. That’s partially because they had no Beyoncé or Diana Ross—no single superstar frontwoman for audiences to fawn over. This was by design, as Exposé mastermind Lewis Martineé, the songwriter and producer behind nearly all of their hits, set out to create a group with three lead singers. Unfortunately, the public never really got to know the women behind the voices.
The real problem was that Exposé made dance music, and in that producer-driven world, singers are often treated as faceless and interchangeable. Unbeknownst to many casual fans, the version of Exposé that shot to fame in 1987 included none of the ladies who’d launched the group two years earlier and who had recorded the original version of “Point of No Return,” the freestyle classic that remains Exposé’s signature tune.
The story of how the initial Exposé lineup gave way to the second—and how the second ran with the baton and ruled the charts for nearly a decade—is unlike any other in pop history. It’s filled with weird twists and a string of classic songs the group is still singing for packed houses across the country.
The Exposé saga begins with Martineé, a Cuban native who became obsessed with music as a child. Martineé moved to California when he was 10 and soon began playing drums and percussion in rock bands. He later moved to Florida, sold his drum kit to buy a newfangled Roland TR-808 drum machine, and started writing and producing dance tracks. One of the first he released was “Woman,” a post-disco banger credited to Techno-Lust. It became a local hit and led Martineé to partner with Frank Diaz and Ismael Garcia and start Pantera Records.
Around this time, Martineé came up with the idea of forming a girl group. They would be like The Supremes, only slightly different. “I didn’t want one girl to sing and the other two to be backgrounds,” Martineé told the podcast Choons. “I wanted each girl to have her own style.”
One of the songs Martineé earmarked for his new group was “Point of No Return,” a fizzy freestyle earworm he’d written and produced, and that everyone around the studio seemed to love. Martineé asked his then-girlfriend, Aléjandra Lorenzo, a.k.a. Alé, to lay down a scratch vocal for the track. As Martineé searched for singers for the project, he realized Alé already sounded great—and he might as well just put her in the group.
Martineé rounded out the trio with Sandra Casañas, a.k.a. Sandeé, and Laurie Miller, who was dating Pantera Records co-founder Frank Diaz. (There was also another early member named Lori Creevay who rehearsed with the group but never performed live.) Miller was an experienced singer and dancer, and in a 1985 interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, she described herself as the trio’s “team captain.” Indeed, she designed Exposé’s increasingly sexy outfits, did everyone’s hair and makeup, and even choreographed the dance steps.
X-Posed and Untrained
Martineé dubbed the group X-Posed and released “Point of No Return” with Alé on lead vocals. She was an untrained singer with a thick Miami accent, but as Martineé told No Echo, she had “some kind of magic” on the recording. This was typical for freestyle, a genre where non-virtuosos with the right emotional character made the best records. (See: Debbie Deb’s eternal “Lookout Weekend” or Cynthia and Johnny O’s sublime “Dreamboy / Dreamgirl.”)
“Point of No Return” earned heavy local club and radio play. On a business trip to Miami, David Jurman of Arista Records heard the track and loved it, as it reminded him of Shannon’s “Let the Music Play,” the 1983 smash that many people consider the first freestyle song. (There is much debate about this in the freestyle community.) After changing the group name from X-Posed to Exposé, Arista signed the trio to a two-single deal and re-released “Point of No Return” in early 1985. It rose to No. 1 on the Billboard dance chart that spring.
On the strength of the follow-up, “Exposéd to Love,” as well as Exposé’s red-hot live shows, Arista agreed to release a full-length album. But before the LP saw the light of day, all three girls were replaced with new singers. There are various accounts as to how and why this happened. According to a 1987 Los Angeles Times story, Arista didn’t think the original ladies had star potential, so they straight-up fired them. But Martineé has always maintained that it was his idea to revamp the lineup.
“It was a mutual thing,” Martineé told Choons. “The first three generation, they were on board with changing the group.”
Laurie Miller and Alé have their own versions of events. (Sandeé died in 2008 at the age of 46.) Alé had never wanted a showbiz career, and claims that she left the group of her own accord. She even found her own replacement, California native Jeanette Jurado, whom she’d seen performing with a band called New Breeze in Los Angeles. Miller insists that she was going to remain in the second incarnation of the group, but that a number of factors—including her breakup with Diaz, the extremely unfavorable contract she was offered, and the fact that Sandeé was left in the dark about the impending reorganization—led her to leave Exposé.
Miller apparently quit from the stage of The Waterfront, one of Miami’s most popular gay nightclubs at the time, one fateful night night as tensions with management came to a boil. “Let’s have a toast to this great music,” Miller remembers telling the crowd. “I love you all. It’s never going to be like this again.”
Seasons (and Singers) Change
The newly hired Jeanette Jurado moved to South Florida and was joined by Gioia Bruno—an Italian American who grew up in New Jersey and was discovered performing in a Miami club—and Ann Curless, a University of Miami graduate who’d sung in local cover bands. That trio recorded all-new lead vocals for 1987’s Exposure, though Miller and Alé claim that their original background vocals are “all over” the album. What’s more, the first 125,000 copies of Exposure included the original “Point of No Return,” with Alé’s lead vocals.
After the album’s lead single, the freestyle masterpiece “Come Go With Me,” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, Arista decided to release “Point of No Return” yet again. This time, Jurado re-recorded Alé’s vocals, and all subsequent pressings of Exposure included the new version. “Point of No Return” became a No. 5 pop hit, and the mid-tempo follow-up, “Let Me Be the One,” reached No. 7. That set the stage for Exposé’s greatest chart triumph, “Seasons Change,” a sentimental ballad—complete with cheesemonger sax—that Martineé wrote after turning 30 and feeling suddenly old. “Seasons Change” reached No. 1, making Exposé the first group in history to nab four Top 10 hits with their debut album.
Fans who knew Exposé from the early club days were furious about the lineup changes. Some would yell, “You’re not Exposé!” during live shows. But the new girls kept their chins up. “Now that I look back on it, I’m glad [the heckling] happened, because it made us much stronger, more determined to make the band successful,” Gioia Bruno told The Morning Call in 1989. “Now, I think most of America doesn’t even remember that there were other girls in the group.”
Clearly, these new singers were no pushovers. By the time they released their 1989 sophomore album, What You Don’t Know, Exposé had fought for a more equitable share of the money. “Not to belittle our production company, but Ann, Gioia, and I learned that you have to watch every cent that comes in and [goes] out,” Jurado told The Morning Call, alluding to some shady business dealings. “But now, some things have changed contractually, and we're very happy with our situation.”
What You Don’t Know fell well short of its predecessor’s multi-platinum sales. But it went gold and yielded three more Top 10 singles: the freestyle-adjacent “What You Don’t Know,” which boasts a real-deal horn section; the gauzy ballad “When I Looked at Him”; and “Tell Me Why,” a dance tune closer to new jack swing than to Latin freestyle.
While on the road promoting What You Don’t Know, Curless told Phoenix New Times that she and her bandmates wanted to write their own songs, but that Martineé rejected everything they came up with. She also admitted that Exposé lacked personality and had yet to really distinguish themselves from other female freestyle trios, like The Cover Girls and Sweet Sensation.
“We really were never promoted as a group as strongly as we should have been,” Curless said. “So now, working on the image of the group is something we are constantly submerged in. We’re always trying to figure out the right angle: Is it clothes? Is it attitude? Is it interviews?”
The members of Exposé didn’t get any writing credits on their 1992 self-titled third album, which introduced newcomer Kelly Moneymaker in place of Bruno, who was recovering from a tumor on her vocal cord. This time around, not even Martineé was able to maintain his iron grip on the material. With freestyle falling out of fashion, Arista brought in outside songwriters like Diane Warren, the high priestess of adult contemporary ballads, to create a sound that was more in line with prevailing trends of the time.
“It seemed the record label was trying to look for the next Wilson Phillips,” Jurado told fansite The Exposé Epistle in 2009. That explains “I’ll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me,” the Warren-penned shmaltz-fest that reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Exposé their eighth and final Top 10 hit.
Arista dropped the group in 1995, and they split up soon after, ending one of the era’s most remarkable chart runs. Looking back in 2009, Jurado lamented the fact that Exposé were always marketed as a dance act. “I think there are some dance songs out there that … are hits because of the song, and you don’t have to sing because of it, and you don’t have to perform,” Jurado said. “But we were vocalists, and we wanted to show that, and prove that to people.”
Over the next decade, the members of Exposé made solo records, started families, and got on with their lives. During the same period, the generation raised on Latin freestyle became nostalgic for the songs that set the soundtrack to their formative years. Artists like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Stevie B, and Judy Torres began teaming up for package concerts that filled arenas like Madison Square Garden. The time was right for Exposé to take fans back to the point of no return.
After a brief reunion in 2003 with Moneymaker in place of Bruno, the “original” trio—Curless, Jurado, and Bruno—reformed in 2006. They were sued over the Exposé name the following year by the production company that emerged following the dissolution of Pantera Productions, but the women won the right to the trademark in a 2009 court ruling that was affirmed two years later. “Doesn’t trademark ownership look good?” a triumphant Curless asked during a performance at the 2009 Los Angeles Pride Festival.
Exposé returned with a new single, “Shine On,” in 2012, and a decade later, they continue to play for diehard fans around the country. And they’re not just together for the money. “There’s nobody besides those two women who know me the way they do, who have gone through the things I have,” Jurado said in a 2020 interview with Ultimate Disco Cruise. “We all have this desperate love for one another and respect and admiration,” Curless added. “I feel like the luckiest girl in the music industry.”
As for Martineé, the man who started it all, he’s still an active songwriter and producer specializing in dance and chill-out music. His resume includes collaborations with Pet Shop Boys, Ricky Martin, Debbie Gibson, and Vanessa Williams, among others. Speaking with Songfacts in 2022, Martineé seemed envious of modern EDM artists like Tiesto, who use different singers on every track but always get topline credit.
“Instead of calling it Exposé, I wish I would have called it Martineé,” he said. “Then Martineé would be the famous name now.”