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 an alumna of the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, where she sang in Singsation and Hasting Street. She is also an alumna of the Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chorus., where she starred in Carmen, Tosca, Pied Piper of Hamlin, The Very Last Green Thing' and The Nut Cracker.
2014: American Idol
At 15, Watson auditioned in Detroit with Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way." She is the third youngest contestant in American Idol's history to reach the live finals after Lauren Alaina and Daniel Seavey.
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.
Performances on American Idol
|Episode||Theme||Song choice||Original artist||Order||Result|
|Audition||Auditioner's Choice||"Ain't No Way"||Aretha Franklin||N/A||Advanced|
|Hollywood Round, Part 1||A Capella||"Brand New Me"||Alicia Keys||N/A||Advanced|
|Hollywood Round, Part 2||Group Performance||"I Want You Back"|
with Christina Collins, Olivia Diamond, and Queen Bulls
|The Jackson 5||N/A||Advanced|
|Hollywood Round, part 3||Solo||"I Believe"||Fantasia Barrino||N/A||Advanced|
|Top 20 (10 Women)||Personal Choice||"Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)"||Ray Charles||10||Advanced|
|Top 13||This Is Me||"Runaway Baby"||Bruno Mars||2||Bottom 3|
|Top 12||Home||"Take Me to the King"||Tamela Mann||10||Safe|
|Top 11||Songs from the Movies||"I Am Changing"||Jennifer Holliday||11||Safe|
|Top 10||Billboard Top 10||"When I Was Your Man"||Bruno Mars||5||Safe|
|Top 9||I'm with the Band!||"The Long and Winding Road"||The Beatles||4||Safe|
|Top 8||Back to the Start||Solo "Ain't No Way"||Aretha Franklin||6||Bottom 3|
with Sam Woolf
|Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat||8|
|Top 8||Songs from the 1980s||Solo "Through the Fire"||Chaka Khan||4||Eliminated|
|Duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)"|
with CJ Harris
|Aretha Franklin & George Michael||8|
- When Ryan Seacrest announced the results in this particular night, Watson was among the bottom 3, but was declared safe second, as Kristen O'Connor was eliminated.
- When Ryan Seacrest announced the results in this particular night, Watson was among the bottom 3, but was declared safe, as Sam Woolf was saved by the judges.
- Due to the judges using their one save on Sam Woolf, the top 8 remained intact for another week.
Watson took part in the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2014 from June 24 through August 24, 2014. Throughout the duration of tour and to date, she worked on her debut EP, My Diary, and her unnamed album.
|2014||"When I Was Your Man"|
|"The Long and Winding Road"|
|"Ain't No Way"|
|"Through the Fire"|