She is a half Filipino American, half African-American, the daughter of Ronald Watson, a professional guitar player, and Marian Bandico Watson, who hails from Manila, Philippines and is a nurse. Malaya is a tuba player in Southfield High School marching band. She is also an alumna of the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit  and the Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chorus.
After being deemed as a front-runner to win by judge Jennifer Lopez and fans, Watson was announced as the act with lowest number of votes for Top 8 reveal night. With the Judges save gone Malaya was eliminated from the competition. She sang "I Am Changing" as her farewell song. After her final performance Watson received a final standing ovation from all three judges